An unusual asymmetric design faux tortoiseshell hair comb with gold tone metal trim
CONDITION: good vintage condition
SIZE: 6 ins h x 5 ins w (15 x 13 cms)
APPROXIMATE DATE: 1890s – 1900s
This is an interesting asymmetric design hair comb from the late 19th century. It has an unusual outline which is “pulled over” to the left and a narrow gold tone metal border surrounds the heading.
This type of ornament is often known as Spanish or mantilla comb because it resembles a smaller version of the traditional large tortoiseshell ornaments worn by Spanish ladies with their native dress. In practice any comb which has a high upstanding heading or top is often called a mantilla comb.
Such higher topped combs were produced in genuine tortoiseshell and precious metals for the higher end of the market and in horn, celluloid and other materials for the popular end. The tall mantilla style headings became popular in the 1870s due to the debut of Bizet's opera Carmen in 1875. The type continued to be fashionable but grew smaller and daintier as the 19th century drew to its close.
Such attractive hair accessories are made not from real tortoise shell but from a faux tortoise effect made in a synthetic material called celluloid. Celluloid was invented in the mid 19th century but really came into its own in the later 19th and early 20th century when natural shell was becoming more expensive. Faux tortoiseshell combs imitate the distinctive mottled appearance of genuine shell with varying degrees of success. Some are so well done that it is extremely difficult to tell the difference.
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