A classic “balls on spikes” crystal hair comb with hinged heading
CONDITION: good vintage condition with accepted wear
SIZE: 3½ ins h x 4½ ins w (9 x 11 cm) decorative part 1½ ins h (4 cm)
APPROXIMATE DATE: 1860s – 1880s
MATERIALS: steer horn, metal, crystal
Here we have a classic mid Victorian hinged hair comb with a “balls on spikes” type embellishment. The comb mount is of steer horn heading which is dyed deep amber. To this is attached by a brass hinge a heading wrought in polished brass which resembles the design of a coronet with seven upstanding spikes. Each one is topped off by a ball shaped motif in faceted crystal, with the one in the centre being slightly larger than those at the extremities.
These balls combs were known as “peigne Josephine” being named after the stylish wife of the Emperor Napoleon I. They range tremendously in size from combs decorated with balls as large as 1½ inches across to much smaller and daintier ones.
Most often the balls are graduated in size, with the largest being placed in the centre or somewhat raised to give the effect of a coronet. As with this example the balls are usually of an odd number, five, seven and nine being the most popular.
The designs of these balls combs and manner of wearing them varied, and some contemporary examples can be seen in the collage photograph.
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.
Such combs are often called tiara combs because the hinged mount gave them a considerable degree of flexibility. The hinge allows the top to be rotated through as much as 360 degrees, as shown in the photographs. This means it can be worn in the back as well as the front of the hair style. In this latter position the tines would be concealed beneath the hair, so that the ornamental heading functioned as a mini tiara.
Ask me about my convenient Layaway plan
Mid Victorian tiara style hair comb crystal balls on spikes hair ornament