A pretty late Victorian or Edwardian back comb with rhinestone trim
CONDITION: good vintage condition
SIZE: 4 ins h x 4½ ins w (10 x 11 cm)
APPROXIMATE DATE: 1890s – 1900s
MATERIALS: faux tortoiseshell, rhinestones. gilding
Here is a very beautiful back comb dating from the period around the turn of the 20th century.
It comprises a comb mount in celluloid faux tortoiseshell having a gently curved top profile. This provides a large rectangular panel which is decorated with a gilded design. The design incorporates floral motifs placed against a lattice work ground, all enclosed in an elaborate undulating border. The design is further embellished by small clear rhinestones placed at intervals.
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.
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.
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. They tend to have an affixed gilt metal, silver tone or sterling frame which is adorned with prong set rhinestones or faux gems. Some examples, like the comb here, are headily gilded with glass stones sunk directly into the ground material.
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.
The surface of the material in this hair ornament is beautifully marked with the typical “tortoise” style mottling and is a very faithful imitation of genuine shell. Many of the later 19th century the hair ornaments which appear to be made of tortoise are, in fact, made from synthetics. These faux tortoise combs are some of the prettiest to be found at this period, since it is unusual to find two exactly alike. Some of them are very convincing and difficult to distinguish from the genuine material, and are skillfully treated to imitate the brown and orange mottling of genuine tortoiseshell.
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