A striking asymmetric French jet hair comb from the late Victorian period
CONDITION: good vintage condition with expected wear. 2 jet pieces missing from bottom of heading.
SIZE: 4 ins h x 4½ ins w (10 x 11 cm) decorative part 2 ins h (5 cm)
APPROXIMATE DATE: 1890s – 1900s
MATERIALS: French jet, metal, celluloid
Here is a late Victorian French jet hair comb with an unusual asymmetric heading design which displays some Art Nouveau influence. Because of this appearance I have dated it as being from the period around the turn of the 20th century.
The foundation of this lovely comb is shiny black celluloid, to which is affixed the usual black lacquered framework. This metal framework dictates the design which is reminiscent of the iconic Art Nouveau “whiplash”. A great deal of skill has gone into hand cutting and fitting the individual pieces of French jet which make up the design. Indeed there are some very unusual cuts.
Mourning was still a very important social custom in the late 19th and early 20th century and it is possible that the comb was worn for that purpose.
The collage picture includes examples of mourning costume and jewelry taken from contemporary late Victorian photographic sources.
French jet is a glittering form of black glass which has nothing to do with France, but was produced mainly in Bohemia, now part of modern Czechoslovakia. In the late 19th and early 20th century it was extremely popular for jewellery making and was favoured for mourning.
The importance of Victorian mourning etiquette upon the production of jewellery and personal ornaments was very marked. This 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. One of these was French jet. Many beautiful combs and hairpins are found in this attractive and fragile material.
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