A pretty late Victorian or Edwardian faux tortoiseshell back comb with rhinestone trim
CONDITION: all stones present but some have darkened and there is some wear to the metal dots.
SIZE: 3 ins h x 4½ ins w (7.5 x 11 cm)
APPROXIMATE DATE: 1890s – 1900s
MATERIALS: faux tortoiseshell celluloid, metal, rhinestones
Here is a very beautiful hair ornament dating from the period around the turn of the 20th century.
It comprises a back comb in celluloid faux tortoiseshell having a wide and narrow heading panel which is decorated with a elaborate conventional design of gilded metal studs and clear rhinestones.
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.
A back comb is. As its name implies, a type of hair accessory specifically designed to be worn at the rear of the hairdressing. It may be placed above, below or within the chignon according to the fancy of the wearer. It is usually identified by a deep curve made to fit the skull. Such 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.
Victorian and Edwardian back combs are often very elaborate and may be richly 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. The more popular range tend to have rhinestones set 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.
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