A handsome and classic mid Victorian Spanish style mottled horn hair comb
CONDITION: good vintage condition with expected wear
SIZE: 5 ins h x 4½ ins w (13 x 11 cm) decorative part 2½ ins h (6 cm)
APPROXIMATE DATE: 1870s – 1880s
MATERIALS: steer horn
Here is a beautifully marked Spanish style hair comb in steer horn. It is of a classic pressed horn type with a curved heading and eight long tines. All of these are nicely pointed and not chipped or broken as on so many of these old combs. The horn has not been clarified and has been left in its natural configuration.
This ornament 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 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.
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.
Horn was one of the most popular materials for hair combs in the 19th century. Not only was the material was cheap, but also it could be easily treated to obtain a number of decorative effects. Combs known as “pressed horn” were manufactured by pressing and squeezing the horn between heated iron plates until the material softened. It could then be placed into in mould and would retain the desired shape when it cooled. Many of these pressed horn combs have an elaborate design impressed into the surface which appears to be hand carved but was, in fact, produced by this mechanical process.
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Steer horn hair comb Victorian Spanish style hair accessory