A late Victorian hair pin with decorative balls embellishment
CONDITION: good vintage condition with acceptable wear
SIZE: 5 ins h x 3½ ins w (13 x 9 cm)
APPROXIMATE DATE: 1870s – 1880s
MATERIALS: celluloid, French jet
Here is a very handsome comb which because of its dark appearance was probably worn for mourning.
It is made from glossy black celluloid as a base material and is formed into a wide open curve with two tines. The top has a gently scalloped silhouette and is further embellished with balls of faceted French jet set onto spikes. Flat backed oval jet cabochons of the same material are also added.
These balls combs were known as “peigne Josephine” after the elegant wife of the Emperor Napoleon I. The balls range tremendously in size from combs decorated with examples as large as 1½ inches across to much smaller and daintier ones. They were produced in very large numbers, and are found with balls in a very wide range of materials.
The final picture is taken from contemporary illustrations for mourning dress and shows two sitters wearing these “balls” combs in polished jet.
The final picture is taken from contemporary fashion illustrations and shows the hair accessories and hair dressing of the period.
Victorian etiquette decreed that in deep mourning, the widow and close relative of the deceased must dress in plain dark garments. The only ornaments allowed to be worn at this time were those of jet, which is a natural material found in Whitby, a small town on the East coast of the United Kingdom. In order to extend the supply of jet when it became exhausted, various other materials were employed. One of these was French jet which is, in fact, a form of black glass. This was produced into a whole range of jewellery and personal ornaments, some of which are illustrated in the collage photograph, along with the dress of a widow.
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Victorian mourning hair comb decorative balls hair ornament