Lucien Gaillard Maple Seed Hair Comb

There is an auction coming up of a Lucien Gaillard hair comb at invaluable.com. The link. Bidding starts at €500, with an estimate of €500 – €600. Perhaps the valuation comes because of its condition. Diagonal striations show in the horn above the tines from the right to the middle of the comb. The inside of the tines have grime and many horizontal marks from wear. The maple-seed-pod decoration is patinated bronze, not silver. I consulted a friend, who said, “Perhaps the horn wasn’t perfectly clarified and the photos are picking up natural color variations. Or, it could be dried out in some areas, and the photos are magnifying tiny splits.”

According to the box, it was first sold by Polak Ainé, or Emmanuel Polak. Emmanuel’s parents Abraham Polak and Gertrude Brook founded Polak-Brook Jewelers in Ostende, a municipality in West Flanders, Belgium. When Abraham died in 1895, his eldest son Emmanuel took over the business, renamed it Polak Ainé, and had stores on 24 Rue Lafayette, Paris; Av Massena 16, Nice; and 30 Rampe de Flandre, Ostende; which explains the box label: “Polak Ainé Joaillier Paris Nice Ostende.”

If the box is correct, I would date this comb to 1901 because that year, Gompers & Polak Ainé Jewellers was formed and opened on 28 Place Vendome, Paris. My guess is that if this comb was made after 1901, the box would have been marked differently.

There is a similar Gaillard hairpin in the Rijksmuseum. The horn is flawless and the maple-seed pods are silver. It is dated c. 1902-1906. This might indicate that Gaillard changed materials for his decoration after the comb currently on auction was made. The museum description: “Hair comb made of horn and silver in Art Nouveau style. Decorated with silver gilt maple seeds.”

At any rate, the comb at invaluable.com is real. If you don’t mind the flaws, and people don’t get insane and bid it up beyond its value, you can be safe in knowing you’re buying a real Gaillard.

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