A handsome late Victorian two pronged hair comb with pique decoration
CONDITION: good vintage condition with expected wear to pique for age
SIZE: 4 ins h x 2 ins w (10 x 5 cm)
APPROXIMATE DATE: 1890s – 1900s
MATERIALS: faux tortoiseshell, gold metallic inlay
Here is an attractive hair comb which probably dates from the late Victorian or Edwardian period. It is made in celluloid faux tortoiseshell with a curved top which is decorated with pique inlay.
The collage picture includes similar examples taken from contemporary photographic sources of the late Victorian and Edwardian periods and shows the fashionable hair dressing of the day.
Simple two pronged hair accessories like these are characteristically made in one solid piece of the material, which might be horn, tortoiseshell, or some synthetic like celluloid. They usually have only one or two tines and their top or heading in a simple shape such as a horseshoe or rectangle, sometimes with the addition of rhinestones or a little openwork decoration.
Combs such as there were made in pairs and sets of four and were worn throughout the 19th and early 20th century. They could perform both an ornamental and a useful function, being used to hold the elaborate coiffures of the day in place as well as to adorn the hair. The plainer ones are more likely to have been used simply to hold the style.
This decorative treatment is the inlaying of precious metals into another material, usually tortoiseshell, but occasionally horn or other substances. This technique has a long history, and was extensively used for the decoration of hair combs and other personal adornments during the reign of Victoria. When gently heated, usually by insertion in hot water, natural organic materials soften to permit the inlaying of small pieces of metal or other substance. When cool, the ground material contracts to hold the pieces in tightly in place without the need for adhesive. Pique is usually found all in gold but in the very best pieces is combined with silver or other materials such as mother of pearl, and is applied in sheets as well as dots.
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