A striking late Victorian mourning hair comb with faceted French jet
CONDITION: good vintage condition with expected wear
SIZE: 5 ins h x 4½ ins w decorative (13 x 11 cm) part 2¼ ins h (5.5 cm)
APPROXIMATE DATE: 1870s – 1880s
MATERIALS: French jet, metal, celluloid
Here is a beautifully made Spanish style hair comb in French jet. 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.
It is made in the traditional method of a black celluloid comb mount to which is riveted a heading framework of black enamelled metal. To this are mounted in turn variously shaped pieces of French jet to form an arched design. I see roundels, ovals and rectangular shapes. The comb was probably worn for mourning.
The collage photograph shows some examples of similar jet hair accessories taken from contemporary illustrative sources, and reveals the manner and hair styles in which they were worn. In one picture a sitter wears a complete suite of French jet hair accessories, including a tiara like comb, while another has an engraving of a similar hair comb.
French jet is a glittering form of black glass which has nothing to do with France, but was produced mainly in Bohemia, now part of modern Czechoslovakia, in the late 19th and early 20th century when it was extremely popular for jewellery making.
The importance of Victorian mourning etiquette upon the production of jewellery and personal ornaments was very marked. This etiquette decreed that in deep mourning, the widow and close relative of the deceased must dress in plain dark garments. The only ornaments allowed to be worn at this time were those of jet, which is a natural material found in Whitby, a small town on the East coast of the UK. In order to extend the supply of jet when it became exhausted, various other materials were employed. One of these was French jet.
Faceted French jet hair comb Victorian mourning Spanish style hair accessory