A handsome late Victorian faux tortoiseshell hair comb with gilded design
CONDITION: good vintage condition with expected wear
SIZE: 7 ins h x 4 ins w (18 x 10 cm) decorative part 4 ins h (10 cm)
APPROXIMATE DATE: 1890s – 1900s
MATERIALS: celluloid faux tortoiseshell, gilding, rhinestones
This attractive wedge shaped hair ornament probably dates from the late 19th or early 20th century. It is made in celluloid faux tortoiseshell with an attractive gilded design that is further embellished with clear 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.
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.
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 skilfully treated to imitate the brown and orange mottling of genuine tortoiseshell.
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