A handsome celluloid faux tortoiseshell hair comb in the Spanish style
CONDITION: good vintage condition with expected wear
SIZE: 6½ ins h x 4½ ins w (15.5 x 11 cm) decorative part 3 ins h (7.5 cm)
APPROXIMATE DATE: 1890s – 1900s
MATERIALS: imitation tortoiseshell
This is a large and handsome late Victorian Spanish style hair comb in celluloid faux tortoiseshell. It has a tall wedge shaped heading with an attractive openwork design.
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 final picture shows similar hair accessories and the styles in which they were worn compiled from contemporary sources.
By this period genuine tortoiseshell had become very expensive. Therefore most of the hair ornaments which appear to be made of tortoise are, in fact, made from synthetics. These faux tortoise combs are some of the prettiest to be found at this period, since it is unusual to find two exactly alike. Some of them are very convincing and difficult to distinguish from the genuine material, and are skillfully treated to imitate the brown and orange mottling of genuine tortoiseshell.
The hairstyles of the mid-Victorian period were large and impressive, with vast quantities of false hair being used to form a huge chignon or, for the evening, trailing ringlets... Therefore the ornaments which were used to adorn them were often equally large and impressive. Large and handsome combs would have been used by a fashionable Victorian lady to adorn the back of the hair, probably being placed above a large chignon. For day they were made of plain horn or tortoiseshell, carved or twisted into ornate designs. For evening, no ornament could be too large or too elaborate.
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Victorian faux tortoiseshell hair comb Spanish style hair ornament