A pretty early 20th century pearlized celluloid back comb with rhinestone trim
CONDITION: good vintage condition
SIZE: 3 ins h x 4½ ins w (7.5 x 11 cm)
APPROXIMATE DATE: 1910s – 1920s
MATERIALS: celluloid, rhinestones
Here is a handsome celluloid back comb which has been made with an attractive pearlized effect applied to the surface. This gives it a pale golden colour. The top of the heading has a slightly undulating profile and an applied gilded design of leaves and flowers. This is further embellished with clear rhinestones.
A back comb is a type of hair accessory specifically designed to be worn at the rear of the hairdressing, above, below or within the chignon. It is usually identified by a deep curve made to fit the skull. These combs are usually wider than they are high and often have an elaborate heading or top decorated in some way.
The collage photograph shows illustrations taken from contemporary sources and depicts similar ornaments, showing how they were placed in the hair styles of the day.
At the turn of the 20th century the hair was worn in a distinctive puffed out style which has become familiar from the drawings of Charles Dana Gibson. This is known as a Gibson Girl or Pompadour style, and often incorporated the use of underlying pads and false hair. It was supported at the back of the head and sometimes at the sides as well by wide hair combs, which might be as plain or as fancy as the wearer desired. These combs also helped to support the huge hats of the late Victorian and Edwardian period.
Victorian back combs are usually very elaborate and may be decorated in a variety of ways such as with balls, cameos, openwork or applied materials. As the end of the century approached the decoration upon such combs became lighter, and often revealed Art Nouveau influence. They tend to have an affixed gilt metal, silver tone or sterling frame which is adorned with prong set rhinestones or faux gems.
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