Faux tortoiseshell Victorian side comb with decorative balls (tests as celluloid)

CONDITION: some slight damage to tines otherwise good vintage condition with acceptable wear

SIZE: 4 ins h x 4 ins w (10 x 10 cm)

APPROXIMATE DATE: 1870s – 1880s

MATERIALS: celluloid


Here is a variation on the classic mid Victorian “balls” comb in which large spheres decorate the top of the heading. This comb is made in celluloid faux tortoiseshell and is topped off with five balls of graduated size, the largest being in the center. However the fact that the design is canted slightly to one side and the shaping of the tines indicates that this handsome ornament was originally one of a pair.

There is some slight damage to two of the tines, as seen. However the comb still works well in the hair and once placed this issue remains invisible. It would suit a re-enactor who wanted to wear their ornaments.

The final picture is taken from contemporary fashion illustrations which depict the fashionable hair dressing and similar balls decorated hair accessories of the Victorian period.


The hairstyles of the mid-Victorian period were large and impressive, with vast quantities of false hair being used to form a huge chignon. 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 chignon. For day they were made of plain horn or shell, carved, twisted or stamped into ornate designs.

These balls combs were known as “peigne Josephine”. They range tremendously in size from combs decorated with balls as large as 1½ inches across to much smaller and daintier ones. They were produced in very large numbers, and are found with balls of pearl, tortoiseshell, gilt ormolu, coral or even carved crystal. Sometimes the balls themselves are elaborately decorated with engraved or inlayed patterns. Often the balls are graduated in size, with the largest being placed in the center or somewhat raised to give the effect of a coronet. The balls are usually of an odd number, five, seven and nine being the most popular.

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The Spanish Comb

Victorian hair comb faux tortoiseshell balls hair accessory


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    The Spanish Comb

    N Rossman
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    Hampshire , or , UK This Shop is rated Platinum - 1,000 or more sales Platinumsince 2012