A handsome celluloid faux tortoiseshell comb with a solitaire rhinestone trim
CONDITION: good vintage condition with expected wear
SIZE: 5½ ins h x 3 ins w (14 x 7.5 cm) decorative part 3 ins h (7.5 cm)
APPROXIMATE DATE: 1890s – 1900s
MATERIALS: faux tortoiseshell, glass stone
Here is a large and handsome faux tortoiseshell mantilla style comb from the later Victorian period. The comb shows a tall wedge shaped heading and four long tines.
The comb is fashioned out of one large solid piece of the mid brown mottled form of faux tortoiseshell celluloid. The material is very nicely marked and polished. The “tortoise” type patterning is very pronounced, with well defined mottling of lighter semi transparent patches on a dark opaque ground. Its only ornament is a large clear solitaire “jewel” set into the centre of the heading.
Mottled tortoiseshell and faux tortoiseshell combs like this, without any form of decoration, continued to be worn even when the large and elaborate mid Victorian combs has begun to lose their popularity. Their appearance relied upon the lustre and markings of the material for their effect. They were considered most suitable for day wear in an era when a woman’s appearance was not considered complete without her combs.
The collage photograph shows illustrations taken from contemporary sources and depicts similar ornaments and how they were placed in the hair styles of the day.
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.
High topped combs like this were extremely popular in the later Victorian era during the 1870s and 1880s. This was due to the debut of the opera Carmen, which promoted a fashion for Spanish style combs with extremely tall headings. Such combs were produced in a variety of materials from tortoiseshell and silver for the higher end of the market down to horn and celluloid for the more popular end. High mantilla style combs diminished to more modest proportions by the end of the century.
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