Classic amber “balls on spikes” late Victorian hair ornament
CONDITION: good vintage condition with accepted wear
SIZE: 4 ins h x 1½ ins w (10 x 4 cm) decorative part 1 ins h (2.5 cm)
APPROXIMATE DATE: 1890s – 1900s
MATERIALS: horn, metal, faux amber
This beautiful comb is an excellent example of the smaller and daintier hair accessories which were worn at the end of the Victorian period.
The comb mount, with its two tines, is made from clarified steer horn. This is surmounted by a brass heading with five upstanding spikes, each of which is topped off by a small ball of polished amber. These combs with “balls on spikes” are one of the favourite designs of the Victorian era, although their size grew much smaller as the end of the reign approached. They were produced in very large numbers, and are found with balls of various materials.
In the late 19th century an art movement called the “Aesthetic Movement” gained popularity among intellectuals. In fashion this led to the prevalence of natural softer vegetable dyes which produced half tints of amber gold, indigo, salmon, sage-green and terracotta. Along with these fabrics the jewels of choice were necklaces of large amber beads in clear and cloudy effects. Many hair accessories in this style were produced.
Fashions in hair dressing changed in the last ten tears of the 19th century. The styles were simpler and a softer, fluffier appearance was fashionable. From the 1900s the Gibson Girl coiffure was popular, whereby the hair was fluffed out over pads with wisps often escaping at the back and sides.
Along with these softer and more feminine coiffures hair accessories grew smaller, lighter and more delicate. Airy openwork designs, such as those of filigree were popular. Small combs made from metal of openwork faux tortoiseshell were set at an angle into the high topknot. Where stones are used they are set in lacy openwork metal mountings, or resemble miniature coronets on a rotating hinge.
The final picture is taken from an engraved fashion plate of the era and shows a contemporary sitter with similar hair accessories and the hair styles with which they were worn.
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Late Victorian hair comb amber balls on spikes hair accessory