Monthly Archives: September 2009

Modern Hair Sticks

Whether the tops are sculpted wood, the woods are exotic and multicolored, the style is geisha, or a lampwork bead is on top, modern hair sticks are bold, brightly colored, and full of imagination. My favorite artist is Susan Maxwell Schmidt of Longlocks Hair Sticks.

I’m not doing this post because she needs new customers or because she’s a wonderful human being, even though she is. :-) Susan has a mailing list of over 1000 people, and when she makes a batch of new sticks, they and the special orders sell out in about 5 minutes. It’s infuriating. ;-)

What makes Susan’s work so coveted is that each customer gets a handmade, unique piece. And she decopauges and/or paints the hair sticks to go with fabulous lampwork beads.

The first pair in this picture, “PlumWild,” uses beads from Australian artist Suzanne Booth, who sells on ebay. The hair sticks are bone, “hand painted in satiny plum purple with an ultra metallic drizzle design of jet black and gold, under layers of protective clear enamel.” The other Special Edition lampwork beaded sticks in Row 1 are decopauged. Their names are WildMeadow and Nottingham. In Row 2 are HolidayBloom, SpringWhispers, and SurfSide.

Special Edition pieces sell for $85 to $90 a pair. However, Susan has sticks in all price ranges and a lockaway plan, which allows people to pay for a set over 3 months. Gorgeous? Or, what? I think she should be on HGTV’s Modern Masters. :-)

Two Lovely Things On Ebay

Two beautiful combs just sold on ebay. I won one, jcollect won the other.

This first one was an ivory comb with three delicately carved panels, which frame roses. Each side is edged with a leaf decoration. c. 1890. English. Measurements: 4 1/4″ wide by 4 7/8″ tall. There is virtually no discoloration to the ivory. Condition: Perfect. I think this comb was made by a master. It sold for $192, which I think is incredibly low, but great for the buyer! For me, this was a $600 comb. Debate welcome.

The second was a Victorian comb in the Algerian style, which influenced jewelry making as news of archeological finds captured the public’s imagination. I won this. Price: $300. Not a bargain, but  fair. I like pearls. :-)

Here are two other examples of combs in the Victorian Algerian style, both from the Norma Hague collection:

Did Not Sell

This diamond and pearl tiara on a two-pronged blonde tortoiseshell comb, c. 1890, is being sold at Sothebys in Hong Kong on April 10, 2007. Est. $32,000 to $38,000. :O That’s a shocking price, but let’s see! I have never seen anything as over-the-top before in this style. This is fabulous! I’ll report the final price.

Here is Sotheby’s description: “The centre decorated with a spray of stylised flowering motifs, set throughout with circular- and rose-cut diamonds, highlighted by three natural pearls, on a series of scrolls supporting graduated star motifs set with similarly-cut diamonds, mounted in silver topped gold, to a three-pronged comb of horn, connected by a metal hinge and frame.”

Beautifully written, as usual, but it said “three-pronged comb of horn.” I might be getting old, but I see a two-pronged comb of blonde shell. ;-)

At any rate, who cares! Oh boy. :-)


Kanzashi are Japanese hair pins, which ornament a geisha’s nihongami, or coiffured black wig. Maiko, or younger geishas, wear more ornaments than the older, more experienced women. Different flowers are worn for each season.

Kanzashi are different than kushi (comb) or kogai (matching stick), even though all three ornaments serve the same purpose. I usually focus on antiques, but I feel modern kanzashi deserved some notice. Today, they are being made from vibrantly colored fabric and painted wood, as opposed to the tortoiseshell and silver of previous eras. The modern ones are quite affordable, too. So I thought I’d compare and contrast today and feature one of my favorite actresses: Zhang ZiYi.

These two tortoiseshell and pink-coral kanzashi ornaments are Taisho, c. 1920, and depict bamboo, plum and pine in an auspicious grouping, which the Japanese call “Sho-chiku-bai.” They were listed with a dealer who retired in 1999 at $300.  I’d say that now, they were worth 3 times that because of the rarity of the design, quality, and condition. Tragically, I have no way of hunting down the owner, so I can kidnap her and force her family to give these to me as ransom. :-(   ;-) But these are Maltese Falcons. :-)

These beautiful tortoiseshell and coral hana kanzashi are tree peonies from the late Meiji Era (1868-1912). Hana kanzashi have the flower anchoring the pendants. One pendant is missing, but that’s no big deal. They are on sale on Trocadero for $890.

Bira bira kanzashi are “composed of metal strips attached by rings to the body of the ornament so that they move independently, pleasantly tinkling (which is sometimes accentuated by additional bells) or long chains of silk flowers called shidare.” (src: Wikipedia) Here is a gorgeous set from the Edo era. Value? Anything you can get it for. Wouldn’t matter. These are fabulous, and any dealer who had them would know that.

And here is a modern fabric wisteria. You can get them for $50, and these are the kind of kanzashi that Zhang ZiYi wore in “Memoirs of a Geisha.” Miss Zhang’s hana kanzashi were more complex than these, but you could get replicas of them if you really wanted to.

In addition to wearing geisha ornaments with such elegance, Miss Zhang also appears in diamond tiara combs when she attends award shows. I think she is fabulously beautiful.


This kushi-kogai set sold on Trocadero, from JCollector, for $2200 a number of years ago. Ridiculous price. I had the money then. ;-) I had to sell this during a house sale that took too long, and mourn it still, but I wanted to share this and note its existence. It is made of tortoiseshell with a blue lacquer background. The crabs in the leafy pool are coral pink with brown eyes amid golden leaves. They have character and smile at you. Signed on both the kushi and kogai, this Taisho set (1912-1926) is a masterpiece. It seems Japanese combs awakened to color from the Meiji to Taisho periods, just as European combs did from the Victorian to Art Nouveau and Deco periods.

Unsold on Ebay

A few months ago, this set of tortoiseshell hair pins with pearls and diamonds, priced at $1200, went unsold. I understand the jewelry was real, but the design is common. If you value just the pearls and those small diamonds, they don’t amount to very much. Neither do two small shell pins, not $1200 anyway. I think you’d need a great design and a makers mark + the jewelry to command that price. But they were pretty. :-)

This comb’s art nouveau decoration is absolutely gorgeous. The top is 14K gold in a wave ribbon with small enamelled pink flowers and green leaves, set off with pearls. It went unsold at $895. Condition: Perfect. I like $650 as a price for this. Retail? Who knows. There is this shop online called Isadora’s. I saw combs like my gold dragon one with the ruby eyes go for $2200, and someone paid it. Isadora’s markets itself as a wedding shop, and when someone is in wedding frenzy, I guess they will pay anything. ;-) So who is really to say, but this is a beautiful comb.

My Collection and Latest Grab :-)

Here are the combs in my coffee table vitrine. :-)

Also, here is my latest grab. I sniped it. I know some of the people who bid, and I think they cursed my name. ;-PPPP No, I jest. But I love the colorful, bold, flamboyant art deco celluloid combs. I’m going to bet this one is English. The best designer in this style of course is the French artist Auguste Bonaz. But I loved this ‘blue and orange flowers on a vine’ comb. We’ll end the night with some color. Price: $135.

Two Lovely Victorian Hair Combs

Hand-done plique a jour is extremely rare. I have only seen one other piece with this kind of work, and it was part of the Norma Hague collection. This Victorian gold-and-silver plique ball and chain on a tortoiseshell hairpin, c. 1840, is a masterpiece. A Maltese Falcon. I love it unashamedly, but I knew how much I’d have to pay if I was going to outbid myrnatoo, so I had to let her have it. heh.It sold for $450 on Feb. 18.


This gold cap has dragons on it, and the dragons have ruby eyes. C. 1880 and English, it sits on a blonde tortoiseshell comb. I bought it for $349 on Feb. 20.

Edo Bird in Flight

Early Edo Japan is one of my two favorite periods of comb art. The other is French art nouveau. But recently, an Early Edo comb of a bird flying from a branch into the sunlight was featured on the web. What I love about this particular piece is that the paint is lighter where the sun is shining, so you get a perspective of the sunlight the bird is looking toward as it is jumps into flight. I’d say the piece is 18th-Century Edo, signed, in immaculate condition. You couldn’t put a price on this. It’s worth anything a collector would pay to get it.