Monthly Archives: August 2011

Frenzy on Ebay: Chinese Kingfisher Comb and Tiara

These Manchu pieces sold at 515 and 641 UKP, with 35 and 26 bids, respectively. Look at the complexity of these designs! They have rubies, yellow and green jade, coral, pearls, kingfisher feathers, and correct backing to solidify them as original royal ornaments.


For more scholarly research, please examine

Catalogue of Old Manchu Jewelry, Carved Stones, Jade, Snuff Bottles Enamels and Fine Furniture, Gathered in China By the Well-known Connoisseur Frederick Moore of New York and Peking

Two Lovely Art Deco Combs on Ebay

I call this comb, “Walk Like an Egyptian,” after The Bangles song. It sold for $411.66 on July 24, 2011.

The comb is a unique 1920’s Art Deco Egyptian Revival piece. The artist painted an Egyptian figure in a papyrus motif on celluloid. He is wearing a necklace and two matching bracelets. Rhinestones edge the flowers and dot the triangular decorative bar underneath.

This is a Maltese Falcon. Congratulations to the winner. I think I know whose snipe bid came in second. Siento tu corazón roto, pobrecita mia.

Another lovely French ivory comb with a hand-enameled deep turquoise design, punctuated with black and white rhinestones, sold for $212.50 on August 13.


For more scholarly research, please examine

Art Deco Jewelry: Modernist Masterworks and their Makers

Sotheby’s Video: 500-Carat Donnersmarck Emerald Tiara

The tiara sold on May 17, 2011, for 11,282,500.00 Swiss Francs, or in today’s currency markets, $14,511,254.51. David Bennett, Sotheby’s Chairman of European and Middle Eastern Jewellery, details the provenance in a video. The emeralds were mined in 16th-Century Columbia and polished in Maharaja style. Contrasted with pale yellow diamonds, they are breathtaking.


For more scholarly research, please examine

The Belle Epoque of French Jewellery, 1850-1910: Jewellery Making in Paris, 1850-1910

The Creative Museum: Chinese Butterfly Ivory Comb

The Creative Museum photographed an ivory comb I sold to them and found a ghost spirit I never knew was there. Metamorphosis. Art Nouveau’s icon emerged from its chrysalis. I’m speechless. As I was looking at real butterflies, the black lines in between sections of their orange wings reminded me of leaded glass lamps.

Dare we think — Resting,
Louis Comfort Tiffany
had epiphany?

Photo credit: Joel Olliveaud.


For more scholarly research, please examine

Chinese and Japanese Hair Ornaments, a publication by The Creative Museum, which can be purchased via paypal.

Al Hirschfeld Before Nina

Before he hid his daughter’s name in caricatures, Al Hirschfeld created this color drawing for the 1954 album cover of The Golden Apple, Broadway’s version of Homer’s Iliad and Odyssey. Rejoice in the flamboyant headdresses costume designers gave to the female characters: a Japanese fan, Indian feathers, a French plume, and a bandeau. Al drew them in such marvellous art deco style.

The Margot Feiden Galleries have the copyrights to sell his drawings, most of which are in black and white. I wonder if she has the original color art of this one. What’s fun is that my father’s name is on the bottom of the album cover.

For more enjoyable research, you may listen to

The Golden Apple (1954 Original Broadway Cast)

Ebay Auction: Lovely Manchu Hair Ornament

A beautiful Manchu piece sold on July 31 for $421.67. Deep blue kingfisher feathers were offset by coral, pearl, and floral decorations. A pin or chain could be put through the rings on top. Congratulations to the winner.


For more scholarly research, please examine

Jewelry and Accessories of the Royal Consorts of Qing Dynasty in The Palace Museum

A Pictorial Record of the Qing Dynasty – Old Manchu Capital

Celluloid Combs: Leominster, MA, and France’s Oyonnax Valley

Who invented celluloid? The credit cannot go to one person or one continent. However, the world’s first thermoplastic was registered in 1870. With celluloid, heat and machines could be used to mold, cut, and carve many objects per hour for the first time. Capitalists invested. Artists’ imaginations went wild. Endless possibilities of color, shape, and intricacy gave birth to the Art Deco Movement, and the Industrial Revolution met comb making.

Two of the most famous manufacturing areas at the turn of the 20th Century were in Leominster, Massachussets, and France’s Oyonnax Valley. Leominster combs were unsigned. However, the most famous designer of Oyonnax was Auguste Bonaz.

What I want to show is how designer, material, hand tools, machine, manufacturing process, and factory were one, while the art had infinite identities.

This comb-rubbing machine resides in an old Leominster factory. It made about 1300 revolutions per minute and held the parts of celluloid combs together.

These are tools used by Leominster factory workers to do hand work on more expensive pieces.

This machine is a Farnham Plummer, which could cut 120-dozen side combs a day, in horn. It could be constructed to cut combs of any size.

In Oyonnax, you see a factory of similar turning machines made by French inventors.

And here is the breathtaking art they produced.

American Celluloid Combs from The Creative Museum.

Auguste Bonaz: from The Creative Museum, The Mary Bachman Collection, The Myrna Klitzke Collection, and The Jo Sullivan Collection.


For more scholarly research, please examine

Collector’s Guide to Hair Combs: Identification and Values by Mary Bachman

The Comb: Its History and Development by Jen Cruse

Comb Making in America by Bernard W. Doyle

Le peigne: Dans le monde by Robert Bollé

Jen Cruse: Tortoiseshell versus Horn

For much of the nineteenth century, tortoiseshell was a luxury material that commanded high prices, whereas horn was a readily available material and inexpensive by comparison. By around 1830, the horn craftsmen found a method of clarifying and staining horn in imitation of tortoiseshell and, over succeeding decades, made combs, hairpins and other small items such as snuff boxes, fans and brooches. Being plausible reproductions of the real shell they, too, achieved similarly high prices and to all but the discerning eye, found a ready market until the advent of celluloid simulations in the 1880s.

The two combs pictured illustrate the remarkable similarities of each material, polished horn and lustrous tortoiseshell.


These combs are British, c. 1850-1870, and can be found on page 43 of The Comb: Its History and Development by Jen Cruse

Sulawesi Indonesia Art: Carved Bird Comb

This prestigious ceremonial buffalo-horn comb is being listed on ebay for $485 or best offer. It’s spirit touched me. In African combs, birds are fertility symbols. Here we have a similar theme of two birds facing each other.

Sulawesi is one of the Greater Sunda Islands of Indonesia. Along with Sumatra, Java, Borneo, and the Moluku Islands, they form the Malay archipelago. Human remains have been found on Sulawesi as far back as 30,000 BC. In the 13th Century, trade routes opened, which gave the native population access to iron and altered the culture. Portuguese sailors discovered it in 1525. Here is a picture from the 1870s, showing the “histoire danseuses padjog” of Sulawesi with stunning costume and hair ornamentation.


For further scholarly research, please examine

The Keiko Kusakabe Collection: Textiles from Sulawesi in Indonesia: Geneaology of Sacred Cloths

Calling Back the Spirit: Music, Dance, and Cultural Politics in Lowland South Sulawesi

Christies Hong Kong Hair Comb

A student of jewelry history had a question about this tortoiseshell comb. “Where does it come from?” she asked.

It sold at Christie’s in Hong Kong for $10,777 in April of 2004 and is decorated with baroque pearls, diamonds and enamel. The lot information did not list where the piece was made. Looking at the shape of the hair pin itself, especially the curved tines, I’m thinking 20th-Century France? Frankly the piece looks like Alexandre de Paris could have made it, but of course, they use rhinestones and modern acrylic plastics. I have a hairpin in the same shape with a glass flower on top. Anyway, I’m stumped. Any ideas?