Two Victorian hair combs in black and faux tortoiseshell effect celluloid.
CONDITION: good vintage condition with expected wear
APPROXIMATE DATE: 1870s – 1880s
MATERIALS: celluloid, faux tortoiseshell
#1 is a round topped mourning comb made from black celluloid. It is devoid of ornamentation save for a moulded design around the top of the heading which produces a gently scalloped effect. It measures 3½ ins h x 3½ ins w (7.5 x 7.5 cm)
#2 a round topped comb in faux tortoiseshell celluloid, devoid of any extraneous ornamentation. The comb is fashioned out of one large solid piece of the mid brown mottled form of faux tortoiseshell. 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. It measures 4 ins h x 4 ins w (10 x 10 cm)
Both of these combs may well have been worn for mourning.
Victorian mourning etiquette decreed that in deep mourning, the widow and close relative of the deceased must dress in plain dark garments. 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. Among these were black celluloid and the dark form of tortoiseshell and faux tortoiseshell (second mourning)
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.
The typical Victorian hair style of this period has the hair draped smoothly back from a central parting and coiled into a large chignon on the back of the head. Typically the high comb was inserted above the chignon so that it could be seen from all angles. There are many mid Victorian photographs which illustrate how the headings of these beautiful combs seem to rise like a halo from the top of the wearer’s head.
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