A fine Victorian natural tortoiseshell hair comb in a distinctive ribbed design
This item is over 100 years old and therefore predates the Endangered Species legislation and has been ethically sourced.
CONDITION: good vintage condition with expected wear for age
SIZE: 5 ins h x 4 ins w (13 x 10 cm) decorative part 2 ins w (5 cm)
APPROXIMATE DATE: 1870s - 1900
This handsome tortoiseshell hair comb is made Spanish style with a high curved upstanding top or heading. The ornament is formed from one large solid piece of material whereby the heading and tines are combined. The material is very nicely marked with tortoise type mottling and highly polished. The only decorative element is the ribbed effect which was probably produced by pressing the shell in between heated plates or moulds.
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, celluloid and plated metals for the more popular end.
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, like the example here, 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.
This item is over 100 years old and therefore predates the Endangered Species legislation. If this item includes any CITES Appendix I materials documentation and certificates required by law for commercial sale, import or export, have been obtained for this item and will be included with it at shipment.
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