The Hair Comb Market

There are so many beautiful things for sale, each with their own story, that to condense a post into one subject is difficult. So I have a buffet of things today. Just click the picture or link to see more details about each item.

In the Sotheby’s Unsold category:

On 6 December 2002, this Henri Vever gold, enamel, and horn hair comb was estimated at $8,000 to $12,000, but did not sell.

vever

On 13 June 2000, this French gold, enamel, and diamond Eugenie comb, c. 1870, was estimated between 6,000 to 8,000 GBP, but also did not sell.

eugeniecomb

Sotheby’s Upcoming Auction:

Up for auction on 14 November 2014 is this brass Alexander Calder hair pin, c. 1940 (Calder Foundation Archive number: A16974). Estimate $50,000 – $70,000. To me, this comb looks like a female body wired into a frame. The estimate is consistent with the Calder market, and I will be interested to know what it fetches.

calder1

Will it appreciate in value, as did Calder’s silver “Figa” hair comb?

“Figa” in Slavic and Turkish cultures is a hand gesture made to represent male or female sexual organs. The first and second fingers wrap the thumb. It could be used in response to a money request or a plea for physical labor. In Ancient Rome, the gesture was used to ward off evil spirits.

Calder gifted it to artist Frances J. Whitney, c. 1948 (Calder Foundation Archive number: A22629). I could just see her wearing it with a geometrically cut black dress to a charity ball, with no one else knowing what it meant but her. :-)

On 15 November 2006, it was purchased from the Whitney estate for $57,000. On 14 November 2013, that buyer sold it for 137,000.

alexandercaldercomb

At Live Auctioneers, another comb caught my attention. It is Russian, c. 1908-1917, silver, and made by Fabergé work master Anders Michelson (marked AM). The comb has eight tortoiseshell prongs and a beautiful hinge that fits over the entire top. Michelson used niello, a black mixture of copper, silver, and lead sulphides, to inlay the dogs and floral pattern on the tiara. The auction starts on 13 November 2014, and the opening bid is €300.

dogs

Michael Backman Gallery

Michael Backman Ltd. is selling a pair of gold and gilded silver-filigree dragon hair pins from China’s Qianlong Period (1735-1796). They have dragon heads, each of which have a turquoise cabochon. Openwork hair ornaments were known as “tongzan” and were worn from the Ming Dynasty onwards.

chinesedragonhairpins

Also on sale is this comb from the Solomon Islands. It is a faa, or man’s woven comb from the Kwaio People, Malaita, Solomon Islands. Woven from yellow-orchid and coconut-palm-frond fibres, the comb was dyed with the geru root. Its teeth are made of fern wood.

solomonislands

The last lot I am going to feature from Michael Backman is this jaw-dropping collection of 38 Indonesian gold ornaments, c. 800 AD. It is a largest set of gold regalia ever collected for a statue in Central Java, Indonesia. The script on the chest cord translates as “‘The weight of the pailut with the diadem: 2 suvarṇa, 1 māṣa, 2 kupaṅ’”

Indon_Gold-750x475

Some Lovely Things on E-Bay

Never dismiss E-Bay. A Māori Paikea comb with an ivory patina to-die-for was listed by God-Save-Whom for $9.95 with no reserve. The description was “Possibly African.”

There is a

There are 6 bids on it, including 2 experienced bidders. It’s real tortoiseshell. As of this printing, there are 3 days and 11 hours to go on this auction.

There is also

The seller thinks it’s French. It could be French or Edwardian English because jewelers in both countries made these types of pins. The auction has 4 days to go.

One of our authors, Miriam Slater, is selling this

It is rare, it is real, and I’d get my hands on it if I could.

Choosing one amongst many beautiful things is so difficult. Mustn’t we just have them all.

कंघी

To have fun researching more items like these, please consult our Resource Library and these books:


Gold Jewellery of the Indonesian Archipelago

Calder Jewelry

Ethnic Jewellery and Adornment
Posted in Alexander Calder, American Hair Comb, Art Nouveau, diadem, Ethnic Jewellery and Adornment, French Hair Comb, Indonesian Hair Comb, Japanese Hair Comb, Meiji Hair Comb, Oceanic Comb | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Lalique Hair Combs and Tiaras

Victorian diamond brooches came with different settings, so they could be worn separately or together as a tiara. Art Nouveau brooches could also serve multiple purposes. Indeed, some were designed as a tiara and ended up as a brooch. Such is the case with this bee-and-flower ornament designed by Rene Lalique in 1905/6. A pencil-and-ink watercolor on paper of a tiara topped with this ornament resides in the Lalique Museum Collection in Paris.

barbaraanneshaircombblog-laliquedrawingofbeesandflowerstiara19051906
Yvonne Brunnhammer, “The Jewels of Lalique,” p. 195

However, during the design process, Lalique might have changed his mind. When the piece was finished, it was fitted to be a brooch or corsage ornament. Lalique used gold, translucent enamel on gold, cast glass, and brilliant-cut diamonds. He created part of a tree, where the branches attach to the center. The piece resides in the Musée des Arts Décoratifs, Paris, and is also dated 1905/6.

beesandflowerscorsageornament

Like the Japanese, Lalique embraced the insignificance of human beings in nature, giving animals, insects, plants, and trees more importance. His Symbolic designs stretched bare tree trunks to create a wooded network for the stories he was trying to tell. The wooded lake at Clairefontaine inspired this study for a comb. Tree trunks border a watery landscape. A leafy mass provides shade. The plants are detailed. There is depth of field, and branches reflect on the water.

laliquedrawing1 (1 of 1)
Yvonne Brunnhammer, The Jewels of Lalique, page 154

His “Tree Branches” comb was made from carved horn with a patina, c. 1900/1.

barbaraanneshaircombblog1-lalique-tree-branches-comb-1900-clairlafontaine
Yvonne Brunnhammer, The Jewels of Lalique, page 155

Indeed, one can see a Japanese influence when viewing this gold-painted tortoiseshell comb with leaves and berries of black lacquer from the Edo era.

edocomb1
blog: Japonisme, by Lotus Green

In an article, “The Insect in Decoration,” by P. Verneuil in The Craftsman magazine, c. 1903/4, Lalique contributed a comb study of grasshoppers. Verneuil notes how artists had fallen for dragonflies, butterflies, and grasshoppers because of their unique shapes, and reflective wings and eyes, which had a “magical rainbow effect.”

laliquegrasshoppercomb

When Lalique made the comb, c. 1902/4, he used carved and painted horn, as well as three triangular green tourmalines.

barbaraanneshaircombblog-laliquegrasshoppers (1 of 1)
Yvonne Brunnhammer, The Jewels of Lalique, page 85

Whether he used cast-glass, enamel, jewels, or carved and painted horn, Lalique made these materials do new and different things. His jewelry was a watercolor of mirrored surfaces, reflecting plants and insects, and philosophically reflecting man’s negligible imprint on nature.

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For more scholarly research, please examine our Resource Library and these books:


The Jewels of Lalique

Rene Lalique: Exceptional Jewellery, 1890-1912

The Comb: Its History and Development
Posted in Art Nouveau, Edo Hair Comb, French Hair Comb, Japanese Hair Comb, Lalique | Tagged , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

The Sarpech of Mughal India

At the First Battle of Panipat, on 21 April 1526, Zahir-ud-din Muhammad Babur founded the Mughal Dynasty. He was absorbed in the ethos of Persian culture, even through he was a Turkic-Mongol, descending from Genghis Khan on his mother’s side.

However, instead of repressing different cultures under its domain, the Mughal Empire accommodated them and collaborated with different ruling elites such as the Marathas, Rajputs, and Sikhs. This created relative peace and economic expansion during the 16th Century. The Mughal Empire reached its peak in 1700 with their sixth emperor, Aurangzeb, a pious Muslim.


The Mughal Empire during the reign of Aurangzeb c. 1700

Men’s turban ornaments were called Sarpech, “sar” meaning head front; “pech” for screw. They were given to the elite as gifts from the Emperor and inserted into the side of a turban. A turban’s jeweled plumes indicated royal status. The most popular motif was a large flowering plant. It could be found on everything from textile wall-hangings to jewelry. In addition, 17th Century ornaments had only one upward projecting unit.


Two Mughal pieces from the late 17th/early 18th Centuries: embroidered wall-hanging, Sotheby’s; sarpech, Victoria and Albert Museum

Here are some other magnificent examples of 18th Century single-plume turban ornaments from Jaipur in the Victoria and Albert Museum.

This sarpech is made of nephrite jade, gold inset with rubies, emeralds, topaz, gold foil, rock crystal and pearl. c. 1700-1750.

This gold and enamel sarpech was made by court jewelers c. 1700.

In West Bengal, a pair of jewels were made for the male turban. They were worn in the center instead of the side. In 1755, the pair was presented as a gift to Admiral Charles Watson by Nawab Mir Ja’far, whom he installed after the Battle of Plassey because Ja’far would not threaten the interests of the British East India Company.

From Murshidabad, India, a district of West Bengal, this painting depicts Nawab Alivardi Khan seated on a terrace in conversation with his nephews Nawaziah Muhammad Khan (Shahamat Jang) and Sa’id Ahmad Khan (Saulat Jang) and his grandson Siraj ud-daula, all wearing plumes in their turbans. It was made of opaque watercolor and gold on paper, c. 1750.

Finally, this magnificent sarpech was made from enameled gold in the royal workshops of Jaipur c. 1800-1850. Given that the Hindu deity Krishna is associated with the peacock, the ornament might have been made to adorn an image of Krishna, rather than for a ruler to wear. Paintings of Krishna also depict him wearing ornaments in this form.

The last Mughal emperor, Bahadur Shah II, was deposed by the British and exiled to Burma following India’s First War of Independence in 1857. The British government then assumed formal control of the country.

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For more scholarly research, please examine our Resource Library and these books:


Maharajas’ Jewels

Treasury of the World: Jeweled Arts of India in the Age of the Mughals

Traditional Jewelry of India
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Plumes: The Creative Museum at the Musée des Arts d’Afrique et d’Asie

In its second collaboration with the Museum of African and Asian Arts in Vichy, The Creative Museum has been invited to participate in the exhibition, PLUMES.

Human fascination with birds begins when their freedom of flight captures our imaginations. We watch birds soar and glide freely, as their beautiful, feathered wings catch gusts of air. Can we explore birds’ connection to the human soul in other cultures?

The exhibition PLUMES investigates five civilizations: India, China, the Ivory Coast, Papua New Guinea, and North America to show how art reflects human reverence for each culture’s emblematic bird.


Click on the image to go to the exhibition

From India: The peacock is India’s national bird and holds an important place in Hindu epic poetry and mythology. In Rajasthan’s miniature paintings, peacocks provide companionship to wistful nayikas. They are heroines in the Natya Shastra, written by Bharata, c. 100 BC. The Creative Museum’s silver-gilded comb comes from Rajasthan. The well contains perfume, which drips into the user’s hair, and is adorned with two peacocks.

From China: Tian Tsui is the art of cutting and gluing the kingfisher bird’s iridescent blue feathers to gilt silver. The feathers are so small, it is a painstaking task. The term literally means “dotting with kingfishers” and has been a traditional Chinese art for 2000 years. The Creative Museum’s magnificent diadem uses tian tsui. The flowers are topped with three symbolic child figures with painted bone faces.

From the Ivory Coast: The hornbill kaloa bird is the mythological founder of the Senoufo people. One opportunity for young tribal men is to join the Poro Society, a school where most carvings and masks are made. Statues combine human and animal elements. The bird’s horned beak is elongated, as it touches the fertilized, swollen belly. This comb from The Creative Museum shows the beak-belly relationship, as a man wears a kaloa-bird mask, perhaps for an initiation ceremony.

From Papua New Guinea: The Dani People from the Highlands have a fable. Once, a snake and a bird engaged in a great race to decide the fate of human beings. If the snake won, men would shed their skins and live forever. If the bird won, men must die. The bird won. The Creative Museum’s male headdress from the Dani is made of cassowary bone and feathers, crocodile claws, and warthog teeth. It was most likely worn by a warrior.

From North America: The Tlingit are an indigenous tribe who live along the Pacific Northwest coast: now Oregon and Washington in the USA; British Columbia in Canada. Modern-day Tlingit also live in Alaska. Before Christian conversion, they were animists. Their totem poles narrated stories, legends, and myths. The Tlingit have raven clans and eagle/wolf clans. As the eagle’s beak is curved, The Creative Museum’s bone hair pin with a totem pole eye probably belonged to an eagle-clan shaman.

With these five distinct cultural interpretations, The Creative Museum’s contribution to the Plumes exhibit at the Museum of African and Asian Arts in Vichy shows how bird mythology lives on in headdresses around the world.

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For more scholarly research, please examine our Resource Library and The Creative Museum’s publications and these books:


Kingfisher Blue: Treasures of an Ancient Chinese Art

Powerful Headdresses: Africa and Asia

Ethnic Jewellery and Adornment
Posted in African Comb, American Hair Comb, Chinese Hair Comb, Creative Museum, Indian Hair Comb, Oceanic Comb, Papua New Guinea, Rajasthan, Senoufo, Tlingit | Tagged , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

The Gold Crowns of Mycenae, Bactria, and Silla

According to archeological finds by Heinrich Schliemann, an elliptical gold diadem with removable crown-ornaments was first discovered in a Mycenaean funerary mound called Grave Circle A, or the “Grave of Women”, c. 1600-1500 BC.


from the National Archaeological Museum in Athens

The Mycenaeans were an Indo-European people who settled in Southern Greece along the Agean Sea in the Bronze Age (1600-1100 BC). They came in contact with other cultures through conquest, creating a society based on a warrior aristocracy that Homer immortalized in The Iliad. The Mycenaeans were an agricultural people. However, after the Thera eruption weakened Crete’s Minoan civilization, the Mycenaeans conquered the sea-trading culture, c. 1420 BC.

A hypothesis: Sea peoples could have spread this crown design to land-trading equestrian nomadic tribes through commerce and war as early as 1420 BC.

Narrower bands comprise the next evidence we find. After Alexander the Great died in 323 BC, his empire spanned three continents. It was split up among his generals, the Diadochi, who at first wore white ribbons and then gold bands called diadems.


1) Diadotus Soter, governor of Bactria c. 250 BC, wearing a white ribbon. 2) Diadem, 300 BC, from the National Archaeological Museum in Athens

Before Alexander conquered it, Bactria (now in present-day Afghanistan) was located in the eastern part of the Achaemenid Persian Empire and connected eastern and western cultures through trade and war. The Silk Road, which began during the Han Dyansty, c. 206 BC, brought traders, merchants, and nomads to Bactria. In war, the Yuezhi, a nomadic tribe who supplied jade to the Han Chinese, moved south to conquer Bactria after they were defeated by the Xiongnu, c 124 BC.

This gives us a significant connection between the Greeks and Han Chinese, as well as the Central Asian and Scytho-Siberian nomads, when it comes to the gold crown from Tillya-Tepe in Bactria. It was found in the tomb of a nomadic Saka woman, c. 100 AD. A plethora of round gold pendants adorns the band and ornaments, which come off easily so they can be packed away.

The Silk Road is also how this multi-cultural-influenced design must have arrived in the Silla Kingdom of Korea, c. 400 AD. Lasting from 57 BC to 935 AD, Silla was renowned for its gold. Along with jade decorations, three prongs forming the Chinese character 山 “mountain” shape the front ornaments. This crown was excavated from the north mound of Hwangnam Daechong Tomb and resides at the Gyeongju National Museum in South Korea.

Crowns like this were cut from a thin sheet of gold and were so delicate, some speculate they were worn only for ceremonial occasions or made as a burial ornament. In nomadic fashion, here is how the crown pendants were detached from the band. I also see a Scytho-Siberian nomadic influence in the tiny mirrored gold pendants. What a startling impression that must have made when those pendants reflected sunlight, linking the king with the sun on Earth.

In the Ancient World, crowns represented nobility, conquest, religious significance, cultural tradition, and the exchange of ideas. Before the helmet design, they were made like this. Both ways of thinking seem so unrelated, but in tracing the history of this ancient design, we can map the development of ideas in a world we could hardly imagine.

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For more scholarly research, please examine our Resource Library and these books:


Silla: Korea’s Golden Kingdom (Metropolitan Museum of Art)

Afghanistan: Crossroads of the Ancient World. Edited by Fredrik Hiebert and Pierre Cambon

Ethnic Jewellery and Adornment
Posted in Ancient World, Bactria, crown, Greek Hair Comb, Mycenae, Silla Kingdom of Korea, Tillya Tepe | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments

Auguste Bonaz at the Creative Museum

The Creative Museum just acquired another masterpiece by Auguste Bonaz.

Made c. 1920 in Oyonnax, five medallions of painted leaves and rhinestones rest in the middle of a curved frame. The medallions are held in place by vertical lines.

I thought this might be a good opportunity to peruse some of the Creative Museum’s other Bonaz combs. Here are two combs from his Art Nouveau period, c. 1910.

Two delicately carved and painted peacocks hold a green medallion in a comb shaped for their tails. How lovely it would look when worn with an embroidered dress.

There are gold accents on this dragon’s wings and head, and his eyes are made of yellow paste stones.

In his Art Deco period, c. 1920…

I call this comb “Every Cloud Has a Silver Lining.” Tines are used in a uniquely imaginative way, depicting both the rain pouring from the clouds, but also in their usual function at the bottom of the comb.

Black was the favorite color of the Art Deco pallette. In this comb, Bonaz put a turquoise cabachon in the middle, surrounded it with mosaic-like decorations, and lined everything with tiny silver dots.

Bonaz’s mantilla combs are unmatched. In this ivory one, the intricate decoration entrances the eye.

Celluloid was able to be shaped as far as the imagination could go, thanks to the comb-making machines at Oyonnax. In this comb, Bonaz suspends seven balls on an architectural frame.

Please feel free to examine more of the Creative Museum’s Auguste Bonaz collection and their exhibitions From Art Nouveau to Art Deco, Part 1 and Part 2

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For more scholarly research, please examine our Resource Library and these books


Christie’s Art Deco

The Best of Bakelite and Other Plastic Jewelry

1933 French B/W Ad Auguste Bonaz Hair Jewelry Art Deco – Original Print Ad
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Combs at the Musée du Quai Branly

The Musée du Quai Branly is as much a work of architecture as it is a museum that houses a collection of 300,000 artifacts from Africa and Oceania. Jean Nouvel designed four structures with 30 multicolored, protruding cubes. Each cube contains an exhibition.

They have a wonderful collection of combs and photographs that show how they were worn.

For example, the Buang are a Papuan people of the Morobe district of North-East New Guinea. In 1954, François Girard took this photo of a Buang man wearing a comb at the Mission de Françoise Girard during a feast.

The Buang carved and engraved bamboo combs, such as this one, which is similar to the one worn in the photograph.

Artisans of the Kuy people in Cambodia were known for their textile-weaving skills. They wove ikat, an elaborate silk fabric for women’s sampot hol-skirts, and pidans, which were wall hangings used for ceremonial decoration. This wood comb, c. 1870, was made for weaving. It is framed with a dragon and has zoomorphic and floral motifs. The comb itself is bamboo. The slats are cut separately and stretched by a linen thread.

This pidan resides in the Honolulu Museum. The whole textile chronicles Prince Siddhartha (the future Buddah). He leaves the family palace, accompanied by the gods Indra and Brahma. Then he cuts off his hair, meditates under the bodhi tree, and attains Enlightenment.

This striking comb with five long teeth, an engraved bamboo top, and two blue beads looks like a dancer. It comes from Seram Island, the largest island of Maluku Province, Indonesia. The comb dates from the late 19th to the early 20th Centuries and was donated by Jean-Paul and Monique Barbier-Mueller. It was probably made for a man.

This is an aigrette on top of carved bamboo. In the Telei language of Bougainville, Papua New Guinea, it is called a kutopagu. Between the comb and feather is possum fur. The two pieces of the comb itself are made from bamboo root, and are connected with plant fibers. This is a male adornment typical of the Southern region of Bougainville with carved motifs the color of lianas: woody, climbing vines that twine around trees and are plentiful in rain forests. According to Emilus Karako, these ornaments are no longer made.

कंघी

For more scholarly research, please see our Resource Library and these books:


Ethnic Jewellery and Adornment

Gold Jewellery of the Indonesian Archipelago

Pictorial Cambodian Textiles: Traditional Celebratory Hangings
Posted in Cambodian hair comb, Indonesian Hair Comb, Musee Quai de Bramly, Museum Exhibitions | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , | 4 Comments

Rodolphe Dogniaux: l’après-midi d’un peigne

Contemporary designer Rodolphe Dogniaux of Design Matin studied at the École Sainte-Geneviève in Paris, the National School of Applied Arts and Crafts, and the National School of Industrial Creation. After making a career as a freelance designer, he is trying to design the hamburger of the future and re-evaluate the French chestnut. (Sometimes, you just don’t ask why.)

In 2012, he was inspired by the Art Nouveau combs at the Musée des Arts Décoratifs de Paris. Once back home, he laid various jewelry elements on his work table and made some stunning pieces. They are untitled. Enjoy the psychedelic swirls, colored beads, and refrigerator magnets.

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For more scholarly research, please see our Research Library and these books:


Contemporary Jewelry in Perspective

500 Pendants & Lockets: Contemporary Interpretations of Classic Adornments

1000 Rings: Inspiring Adornments for the Hand (500 Series)
Posted in Contemporary Hair Comb, Rodolphe Dogniaux | Tagged , , | 2 Comments

AMNH Collection: Mangbetu Ivory Combs of the Belgian Congo

Ivory hair combs for the American Museum of Natural History were collected on a cultural expedition by Herbert Lang and James P. Chapin from 1909 to 1915.


James Chapin and a child, name unknown

They were made by the Mangbetu people, who lived in Panga and Medge, small villages in King Leopold II’s Congo Free State, which became the Belgian Congo in 1908. The Mangbetu were known for Lipombo’, the art of elongating heads, as this comb shows.

This comb features a grey crowned crane.

The Mangbetu were featured prominently in early photographs distributed to show Europeans how well people were doing under Leopold’s rule. The photographs, taken against false backgrounds and made into postcards, were propaganda to sell the mass quantities of ivory and rubber brought in on Belgian cargo ships. They also hid the fact that Leopold had turned the entire country into a slave labor camp, which killed 10,000,000 people.

Lang and Chapin’s field notes state that combs were made by men and often worn by women in the hollow of their hair dress, which can be seen from the back.

However, ivory hairpins are the most visible ornament in Mangbetu hair styles. These were collected from the Lang and Chapin expedition:

This lot of 17 hairpins sold at Sotheby’s for 8,400€ on September 7, 2013,

and this is how they were worn:


First picture: Warrior, Poko region, Congo, 1945

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If you would like to buy a contemporary Mangbetu wood comb, I am confident in recommending


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For more scholarly research please examine the AMNH Collection and these books


King Leopold’s Ghost: A Story of Greed, Terror, and Heroism in Colonial Africa

African Reflections: Mangbetu Art

In and Out of Focus: Images from Central Africa, 1885-1960

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Victorian Hair Pins

Whether the hairstyle was divided into three or more parts, some short, others long; or, the hair was complexly braided at the back, Victorian women adorned their chignons with tortoiseshell combs and pins.

On top of the pins were fantastic gold creations of griffins with ruby eyes, silver so delicately woven it looked like lace, and diamonds. Sometimes the tortoiseshell was carved into flowers and intricate designs, allowing the different colors of the natural material to shade the art like a painter would use his or her brush. Other times, they were capped with gold and silver crowns.

This pin hails from the Metropolitan Museum of Art. Two carved gold rings on top of a cap are set with diamonds, a sapphire and a ruby.

Carved gold tops decorate the fleur-de-lis shape of this dark tortoiseshell hair pin.

Just as silver is delicately woven into lace with diamond dots in this hair pin,

so The Creative Museum‘s hair pin has a circular foliage-like silver design.

More complex caps could set off jewels, such as in this hair pin with aquamarines

and these griffins with ruby eyes.

Or, the setting could be invisible to set off a delicate spray of pearls.

Any way you look at them, jeweled Victorian tortoiseshell hair pins were made in an astonishing array of variations.

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If you would like to buy an antique Victorian hair pin, I am confident in recommending these active E-Bay listings:





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For more scholarly research, please see our Resource Library and these books:


Jewellery in the Age of Queen Victoria

The Comb: Its History and Development

Pre-Raphaelites: Victorian Art and Design
Posted in Auction, E-Bay, English Hair Comb, Victorian Hair Comb, Victorian Hair Combs | Tagged , , | 4 Comments