An attractive Spanish mantilla style hair comb in steer horn with rhinestone trim
CONDITION: good vintage condition with expected wear, 1 missing stone
SIZE: 4 ins h x 3 ins w (10 x 7.5 cm) decorative part 2 ins h (5 cm)
APPROXIMATE DATE: 1880s – 1890s
MATERIALS: steer horn, metal, rhinestones
Here is a very beautiful Spanish type comb dating from the later Victorian period. It has made from steer horn, which has been clarified to render it translucent and then dyed lovely deep amber. The heading of the ornament is an unusual shape, it rises up in two wings at the extremities, with scallops descending to a dip in the centre.
The heading is overlaid by a fine metal tracery in a formalised design that is suggestive of scrolls and foliage. This is further embellished at intervals with small clear rhinestones.
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.
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.
Horn was one of the most popular materials for hair combs in the 19th century, not only because the material was cheap, but also because it could be easily treated to obtain a number of decorative effects. It could be dyed a range of colours. Horn could also be clarified so as to be almost translucent. This gives it the attractive colour of honey, and is a feature of many combs of the period.
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