A large and handsome French ivory Spanish style comb with “snail shell” design
CONDITION: good vintage condition with expected wear
SIZE: 8 ins h x 5 ins w (20 x 13 cm) decorative part 4½ ins h (11 cm)
APPROXIMATE DATE: 1910s – 20s
MATERIALS: French ivory/synthetic
The ornament is made from an early celluloid substance, popularly known as French ivory, because it was invented to substitute for the much more expensive elephant ivory which was becoming rare and expensive by the early 20th century. It contains no materials from an endangered species.
The term “French” may have been deliberately adopted to add a certain cachet to enhance the image of an otherwise unremarkable material in a similar way to that employed for French jet (black glass in imitation of genuine Whitby jet).
The comb has a high circular heading with a distinctive openwork spiral design, like a snail shell. This is combined with delicate lacelike scroll work.
The collage picture includes examples taken from contemporary photographic sources and shows similar items and the fashionable hair dressing 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.
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