Different fittings can attach to many extraordinary pieces of jewelry. For example, a brooch could become a hair ornament, quite easily. Lalique made this corsage into a breathtaking fairy tale of 18K gold, diamond leaves, mother-of-pearl flowers, and green enamel. It is on display at the Musée Lalique, located on the Rue du Hochberg in Alsace, France.
Janvier Quercia was a French silversmith who worked c. 1900. This hair comb was part of a three-piece silver-gilt parure, which included a belt buckle and necklace. A woman emerging from leaves expressed Art Nouveau’s philosophy of metamorphosis. The buckle was made from a metal die cast from a wax model. A reducing machine altered the size of the die to make the comb. As he was making jewelry, Quercia founded Abdullah, a company that made lighters, which was taken over by his son Marcel in 1948.
Quercia’s hair pin design seems similar to my Elkington and Co. barrette. Elkington invented electroplating silver onto copper in the 1840’s, and my piece was made in England, c. 1900.
Mysteriously trolling the streets of Paris, exquisitely dressed, Alain found this: a celluloid comb signed by a heretofore unknown designer, E. Burlisson. The shape of the comb, with its black edge, is pure Art Deco. However, the floral designs that fill in the edge are Art Nouveau. Looking at Ancestry.com, I did find a Burlisson family in London in 1891. If the maker is English, the comb did not come from Oyonnax. Perhaps it came from another company in France, England, or America.
Lalique introduced horn into the jewelry repertoire. In this tiara, c. 1902, the iridescent horn has different hues, lighter in the center, darker on the sides. The flowers have diamond centers. A gold hinge attaches the tiara to a three-pronged tortoiseshell comb.
Lalique uses a curved horn base to showcase flowers cast in glass with fire-opal centers. The tiara resides in the Victoria and Albert Museum and was made c. 1903-4.
This orchid was made by Lalique’s Belgian contemporary Philippe Wolfers. He chose gold, enamel, diamonds, and rubies, as opposed to Lalique’s orchids, which are made of horn and ivory. The Victoria and Albert Museum also owns this piece, c. 1905-7.
Although the silver mines of Taxco are the most famous region for Mexican jewelry, illustrations of modern life were also inked on horn combs.
This piece was made in the 1970’s. Mairin Bulldozer Connor identified the bird as a Tricolored Heron catching a bass on Mexico’s Pacific Coast. What I love about it is that both predator and prey express emotion. From The Creative Museum:
When a new bishop was consecrated in Medieval Europe, ceremony required several rituals be performed before he stepped onto the altar. He wore sandals, sat on a throne, covered his shoulders with an amice, and purified his hair. Ivory combs decorated with Biblical scenes were made specifically for this purpose.
This comb portrays the Torah portion where King David seduces Bathsheba. It was made in the 16th Century and resides in the Musée du Louvre.
The Creative Museum has this ivory comb, where two angels hold the bishop’s monogram securely on a pedestal.
The Latin inscription on the edge says, “This comb was sent by Queen Bertha to Pope Gregory.” Queen Bertha converted her husband King Ethelbert, thereby bringing Christianity to Anglo-Saxon England. Although the historical event occurred c. 590 AD, the comb was made in the second half of the 12th century and resides in London’s British Museum.
This Northern Italian 15th-Century comb depicts the Adoration of the Magi (also known as the Three Kings) and can be seen in the Musée du Louvre.
This comb sold at Sotheby’s for $20,000 on April 20, 2010. I believe Japanese ideas influenced Cartier’s Parisian jewelers in 1920, just as they influenced French artists during Japonisme (1867-1905).
The Japanese intricately carved chrysanthemums on coral kanzashi. It seems Cartier took this idea, fit the coral carvings into an English-style tiara, and hinged it on a tortoiseshell comb. The mums also have diamond centers and are bordered with pearls.
To compare and contrast, here is the Cartier comb and a Japanese coral kanzashi.
The designs in most Japanese kanzashi most commonly are drawn from nature, such as animals ( tortoise, cranes and fish), plants (bamboo, flowers and pine trees) or landscapes (harbors, waves and mountains). Much harder to find are kanzashi in which people are depicted. The inclusion of human beings (to me at least) gives the piece a more personal touch and demands more from an artist because people are complex to render, as can be seen in the elaborate silver piece depicting a man seated on a lotus leaf. For this reason and the fact that they are so rare, hair ornaments which depict people are considered very collectable. Shown here are a few pieces from my collection except the comb depicting the man and monkey which is from the Okasaki collection.