A handsome Victorian faux tortoiseshell hair comb with classic styling
CONDITION: good vintage condition with expected wear
SIZE: 6 ins h x 4½ ins w (15 x 10.5 cm) decorative part 3 ins h (7.5 cm)
APPROXIMATE DATE: 1870s – 1880s
MATERIALS: celluloid faux tortoiseshell
Here is a beautifully marked Spanish style hair comb in celluloid faux tortoiseshell. It probably dates from the latter part of the Victorian era when these large combs were in fashion. 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.
The comb has a high curved heading and is fashioned out of one large solid piece of the mid brown mottled form of faux tortoiseshell. The material is very nicely marked and polished. The “tortoise” type patterning is very pronounced, with well defined mottling of lighter semi transparent patches on a dark opaque ground.
The collage photograph shows some examples of similar hair accessories taken from contemporary illustrative sources, and reveals the manner and hair styles in which they were worn.
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.
Mottled tortoiseshell and faux tortoiseshell combs like this, without any form of added decoration, were worn throughout the 19th century. They appealed to older ladies or those in secondary mourning and continued to be worn even when the large and elaborate mid Victorian combs has begun to lose their popularity. Their appearance relied upon the lustre and markings of the material for their effect. They were considered most suitable for day wear in an era when a woman’s appearance was not considered complete without her combs.
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Victorian classic Spanish style hair comb faux tortoiseshell hair accessory