A large and impressive silver tone metal hair comb filigree design
CONDITION: good vintage condition with expected wear
SIZE: 4 ins h x 6¼ ins w (10 x 16 cm) decorative part 1 ½ ins h (4 cm)
APPROXIMATE DATE: 1850s – 1880s
Here is an unusual comb made from silver tone metal wrought into an elaborate filigree shape. The ornament has three metal tines to secure it in the hair and these are separately attached to the wide curved heading. This is further embellished with an overlaid pattern of floral and foliage elements so arranged that they meet in the centre. Surmounting the top of the arch are a number of graduated nall like elements which are composed of hollow filigree metal.
These balls combs were known as “peigne Josephine”. They were produced in very large numbers, and are found with balls of a wide variety of materials. 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. The balls are usually of an odd number, five, seven and nine being the most popular.
The final picture is taken from a series of contemporary fashion photos which illustrate the fashionable hair dressing and similar tiara style hair accessories of the 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.
The exotic appearance and filigree composition of this comb leads me to believe that it lay have been made in India for the British market. In the 1870s Queen Victoria became Empress of India and this led to an influx into Europe of ornaments made in India. Fine metalwork is traditional in India, but a genre of ornaments was produced which was strictly for export. The form of these ornaments echoes much of the Indian and Indian influenced jewellery, which was produced at this period.
Throughout the Victorian period, with India as part of the British Empire, men took their families on the long voyage east to serve in some remote outpost. The interaction of the Indian population with their British rulers led to an art form, which was a mixture of styles – one which we now call Anglo-Indian. This is because the object produced under this influence were not the kind which the indigenous population themselves would have used. Nevertheless they showed elements of what was considered an “Indian” style, carefully adapted to suit European tastes. Many jewels and ornaments were produced in this Anglo-Indian style. Other ornaments were produced in Britain, but were clearly influenced by the patterns and art forms of other cultures. That is how many unusual hair ornaments and accessories have come to our shores.
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Silver tone metal tiara hair comb with attractive openwork design