A striking simulated tortoiseshell from the late Victorian period
CONDITION: good vintage condition with expected wear
SIZE: 6½ ins h x 4 ins w (16 x 10 cm) decorative part 3 ins h (7.5 cm)
APPROXIMATE DATE: 1890s – 1900s
MATERIALS: celluloid faux tortoiseshell
Here is a faux tortoiseshell Victorian comb dating from the last few years of the 19th century. The comb 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.
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.
The collage picture shows similar hair ornaments taken from contemporary illustrative sources and the hair styles with which they were worn.
Mottled 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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Classic imitation tortoiseshell hair comb in Spanish style