Two traditional Java hair combs in buffalo horn and gilded brass

CONDITION: good vintage condition with expected wear

APPROXIMATE DATE: late 19th – early 20th century.

MATERIALS: brass, buffalo horn, rhinestones


Here are two of the classic comb types found in Java and usually worn with festival or ceremonial dress. Both are made in the traditional half moon shape from carved domestic water buffalo housed within a decorative metal case which may be set with glass jewels. Such combs were worn above the forehead line by women, placed flat against tied back hair in central Java. They date from the late 19th – early 20th century.

They would probably have been placed in a similar way in the front or side of the hair which was then surmounted by an elaborate wedding crown of the type illustrated in the final picture.

#1 measures 1½ ins h x 3½ ins w (4 x 9 cm). It is decorated with a floral design representing the lotus flower with its foliage. This represents the Hindu heritage where lotus is regarded as sacred. The lotus is a symbol of change and purity. It has its roots in mud but the beautiful flower reaches towards the heavens.

#2 measures 1½ ins h x 4 ins w (4 x 10 cm. It is decorated with an elaborate filigree design which features scroll work and is set with clear rhinestones at salient intervals.


Large and elaborate headdresses are still part of the traditional dress worn on festive and ceremonial occasions such as weddings in Borneo, Sarawak, Sumatra, Java and other western islands of Indonesia. Elaborate metal headpieces gilded, embossed and engraved or intricately carved combs are worn tiara like on the front or top of the head. Smaller combs are ornaments would be worn to decorate the front of the hair as shown in the final illustration.

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The Spanish Comb

Two vintage Java Indonesian hair combs traditional hair ornament (AAR)


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