A pretty late Victorian hair comb in the Spanish style
CONDITION: good vintage condition with expected wear
SIZE: 5½ ins h x 3 ins w (14 x 7.5 cm) decorative part 2¾ (7 cm)
APPROXIMATE DATE: 1890s – 1900s
Here is a tall and handsome wedge shaped comb dating from the late Victorian period. It is made in celluloid faux tortoiseshell with a cut out design of three diamond shapes surrounded by scroll work.
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. Such combs are worn placed high on the head in order to allow the beauty of their ornamental cresting to be admired.
By the late 19th century genuine tortoiseshell had become very expensive. Therefore most of the hair ornaments which appear to be made of shell are, in fact, made from synthetics. These faux tortoise combs can be very pretty and effective since it is unusual to find two with exactly the same markings. Some of them are very convincing and are skilfully treated to imitate the random brown and orange mottling of genuine tortoiseshell. However, examined with a loupe, genuine shell has a three dimensional quality which cannot be duplicated.
The collage picture shows a selection of illustrations taken from contemporary sources which depict similar ornaments and the hair styles with which they were worn. These tall wedge shaped headings are typical of the closing years of the Victorian period.