A handsome celluloid faux tortoiseshell Spanish style comb with gilded trim
CONDITION: good vintage condition with expected wear
SIZE: 5¼ ins h x 2 in s w (13 x 5 cm) decorative part 2¼ ins h (5.5 cm)
APPROXIMATE DATE: 1890s – 1900s
MATERIALS: celluloid, metal
Here is a simple but very elegant hair comb made in solid celluloid faux tortoiseshell.
The comb is made Spanish style with a high upstanding top or heading. The oval shaped heading is formed from one large solid piece of material which bears a very close resemblance to the mid brown mottled form of genuine tortoiseshell which it is designed to imitate. The material is very nicely marked with tortoise type mottling and highly polished. The only decorative element is a narrow gilded metal border which surmounts the top of the comb.
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.
The collage picture includes similar examples taken from contemporary late Victorian photographic sources and shows the fashionable hair dressing of the day.
Large solid tortoiseshell and faux combs like this remained a favourite hair ornament throughout the Victorian period. They were made out of one piece of the material with integral heading and tines. They come in various classic shapes – curved, rectangular, wedge shaped, scalloped and sometimes with a spiky top profile. Some were pressed in moulds to give them a fluted radiating design resembling foliage, or simple geometric lines. Others might be decorated with pique inlay of gold, silver or mother of pearl. All these ornaments rely mostly upon the natural beauty of the mottled “tortoiseshell” design for their appeal. The most prized are those where lighter translucent patches of light brown or orange are strongly marked and widely distributed across a dark background which is highly polished.
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