A pretty cut steel hair comb as an insect or bug
CONDITION: good vintage condition with expected wear
SIZE: 4 ins h x 1 ins w (10 x 3.5 cm)
APPROXIMATE DATE: 1890s – 1900s
MATERIALS: cut steel, steer horn
Here is a very pretty cut steel hair pin which probably dates from the later part of the 19th century. It may seem odd to us now to make a hair accessory in the form of a fly or insect. However there was a vogue for these “insect” type ornaments in the late 19th century and they were produced in a wide range of materials.
This pretty little hair ornament has a two tined comb mount of clarified steer horn which is attached by a hinge to the heading. This makes the ornamental part of the comb flexible and able to be adjusted to different angles. The “bug” motif is so densely packed with the faceted studs that the supporting metal framework is invisible.
In Victorian steel good such as this the faceted studs were riveted to base plates of various metals such as brass, tin or silver alloys. The studs were so often closely massed together as to completely obscure the base plate. The individual steel studs were inserted into metal frames.
As the 19th century progressed the quality of the individual studs began to deteriorate, together with the amount of facets used. In early steel work as many as 15 facets were used. However later Victorian work often shows only five.
Cut-steel remained popular until the late nineteenth century. At that time mass manufacturing began to produce whole ribbons of studs by stamping them out by machine instead of faceting them individually and riveting them in place. As quality began to deteriorate demand began to fall. The late Victorian pieces had nowhere near the quality or beauty of the earlier work.
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Cut steel mid Victorian hair comb in fly or bug shape hair ornament