A handsome late Victorian mourning comb in celluloid and French jet rhinestones
CONDITION: good vintage condition
SIZE: 6 ins h x 4½ ins w (15 x 11 cm) decorative part 3 ins (7.5 cm)
APPROXIMATE DATE: 1890s – 1900s
MATERIALS: celluloid, French jet stones
Here is a striking black celluloid mourning comb dating from the final quarter of the Victorian era.
The ornament a fan shaped heading with a complex openwork design suggestive of foliage. The stems and leaves are encrusted with French jet rhinestones.
This type of ornament is often known as Spanish or mantilla comb because it resembles a smaller version of the traditional large shell ornaments worn by Spanish ladies with their native dress. In practice any comb which has a high upstanding heading or top which stands proud of the top of the head is often called a mantilla comb.
French jet is a glittering form of black glass which has nothing to do with France, but was produced mainly in Bohemia, now part of modern Czechoslovakia. In the late 19th and early 20th century it was extremely popular for jewellery making and in particular the adornments associated with mourning.
Victorian mourning etiquette decreed that in deep mourning, the widow and close relative of the deceased must dress in plain dark garments with a long veil hanging from the bonnet. The only ornaments allowed to be worn at this time were those of jet, which is a natural material found in Whitby, a small town on the East coast of the UK. In order to extend the supply of jet when it became exhausted, various other materials were employed. One of these was French jet.
The collage photograph shows illustrations of mourning jewelry and hair ornaments taken from contemporary sources, and depicts similar ornaments, showing how they were placed in the hair styles of the day.
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