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French Ivory Overlay Lacy Hair Comb

Ref: AN-0903-022

This ornament is made by a process called overlay, whereby it is formed from two distinctly coloured layers. The layers were then cut through so that the one beneath showed through the design, or at various points in the carving.

Here, for example a core of creamy-beige French ivory has been cast with a shiny black shell, and then hand finished by being carved and engraved. The graving tool has cut through the upper creamy layer into the black, producing an interesting topographical effect with peaks of black and valleys of white.

The comb is formed as a mantilla type, with a high upstanding heading which can be seen from all angles, as in the final picture. This shows a young lady in the dress of the 1870s and wearing a similar upstanding hair comb.

Size: 5½ x 4¾ ins (approx 14 x 12 cms)


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French Jet Spanish Mourning Hair Comb

Ref: AN-1104-026

This Victorian mourning comb has a foundation of glossy black celluloid and is literally encrusted with many small faceted pieces of French jet. It is of the older type whereby the jet pieces were attached to a black enamelled metal frame which is attached to the comb mount. The wedge shaped heading shows jets in several different shapes: circles, ovals, lozenges and ellipses. This is a sure sign of a quality ornament,

This handsome ornament was probably worn by a lady who had entered second mourning. Victorian mourning etiquette was very strict and required the bereaved to wear plain black with no ornaments for the first year. After this came secondary mourning when ornaments might be introduced, so long as they were dark or black. French jet, a faceted form of black glass, was one of the most popular materials used for this purpose.

The final two pictures show a lady wearing a dark gown and comb of similar shape and the costume of Queen Alexandra as a widow.

Size: 5¾  ins h x 3 ins w (approx cms 14.5 x 7.5 cms) 


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Pierced and Engraved Steel Mantilla Style Hair Comb

Ref: AN-1401-031

The tall mantilla style headings became popular in the 1870s due to the debut of Bizet’s opera Carmen in 1875. Early performances scandalised audiences but it quickly became one of the most popular operas in the world with a significant fashion influence. For almost two decades afterwards these high topped mantilla combs, often with elaborately decorated and pierced headings, were the ornaments of choice for fashionable Victorian ladies.

This one is made in silver plated steel with a pretty scalloped outline, featuring an openwork pierced design which is further enhanced by surface engraving.  Combs like this were worn as shown in the final picture which is taken from a contemporary Victorian photograph of a fashionable young woman of the mid 1880s. We can see that the sitter is wearing a similar shaped comb and has placed it high on the chignon so that the beautiful openwork heading can be seen from all angles.

Size: 4¼ ins h x 3¼ ins w (11 x 8.5 cms) 


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Hinged Horn Back Comb with Decorative Light Panels

Ref: AN-1401-032

This interesting mid Victorian comb has a suitably sombre black and white appearance, and may have been used in half mourning. Victorian mourning etiquette was very strict but allowed the deep black to be relieved by white and or grey after a suitable period. This costume was known as “half mourning”.

The body of the comb is made from natural steer horn which has been dyed black. It is provided with a hinge which allows the heading to rotate and thus to be adjusted to various angles. The interesting thing about the heading design is that narrow strips of light coloured horn (or possibly bone) bone have been affixed to the front by large studs. They form a geometric pattern with high contrast to the dark ground.

The final two illustrations show how such combs were worn. First is an illustration from a Victorian fashion plate which shows an ornament with a similar fold down heading – ideal for concealing the addition of false pieces. The final illustration is from a late Victorian photograph and clearly shows the hinge of the articulated tiara style comb.

Size: 3 ins h x 5 ins w (7.5 x 13 cms) 


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Pre Ban Tortoiseshell Mantilla Style Hair Comb

Ref: AN-1401-033

The comb is made from natural shell and has been carved out of one large piece of this attractive material. The close up pictures show that it is beautifully marked with good contrast between the darker opaque and lighter orange-brown translucent patches which are characteristic of this material. The comb has a regular shape which is curved at the corners and suggestive of organic forms. The random mottling of the shell is its chief decoration.

Here is a fine sturdy comb from the early 19th century carved from one piece of natural tortoiseshell. This comb is of the type known as a Spanish or mantilla comb because it resembles the traditional ornaments worn by Spanish ladies with their native dress. The use of the tall Spanish comb has a very long history of use throughout the 19th century and has never been out of fashion in Spain.

The final two illustrations show ladies in the costume of the 1830s wearing similarly tortoiseshell mantilla style combs which are beautifully mottled.

Size: 5 ins h x 4¼ ins w (13 x 11 cms) 


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