Monthly Archives: March 2012

Jen Cruse: Mongolian Hair Ornaments From Our Community

Written by Jen Cruse, featuring the collections of Gina Hellweger and The Creative Museum.

Mongol women traditionally wore their thick black hair tied in long plaits falling forward onto their shoulders, placing slightly curved silver combs flat on the top of the head. On festive and celebratory occasions, however, distinctive and colourful costumes were offset by an elaborate headdress constructed over a metal frame and decorated with numerous silver ornaments, temple pendants, combs and hairpins, all richly enhanced by the liberal use of red coral, turquoise and amber sets and coloured enamelling. For the Mongolians, coral symbolized blood, fire and light; turquoise, water, sky and air; amber, the earth.

The two silver hairpins illustrated are decorated with coral beads and coloured enamel. These hairpins were once part of the lavish and complex head ornamentation worn by Mongolian women when dressed in traditional costume; late 19th or early 20th century. Length 4¾ ins/12.1cm.

To my fellow author, and noted collector of tribal arts, Gina Hellweger, thank you for contributing this Mongolian parure. Here we can see how they expressed blood, fire, light, water, air, and sky in all its intense beauty. Gina’s parure is made from silver, decorated with enamel, turquoise, and coral.

She was also kind enough to contribute these two sets of Mongolian hair ornaments, made of the same materials.

Mongolians also symbolized their world with jade, pearls, and black agate. From the vaults of the Creative Museum comes this magnificent, rare barrette. A brass medallion full of pearls surrounds a stone of black agate.

The museum has also contributed this silver hairpin, which is decorated with jade beads and carved flowers. Some traces of the enamel still remain.

These two silver slide bars are intricately carved with happiness motifs.

It is an honor for me to bring our community together, so we can all be inspired to learn more about the Mongolian decorative arts.


For more scholarly research, please see the Creative Museum’s exhibition on Chinese and Japanese hair ornaments, as well as these books, which have been added to our Resource Library.

Mongol Jewelry: Jewelry Collected by the First and Second Danish Central Asian Expeditions
The Art of Silver Jewellery: From the Minorities of China

The Comb: Its History and Development

Mimi Favre: Lanai Hair Ornament

Mimi Favre, a modern jeweler, had to enter a piece for the Philadelphia International Flower Show‘s exhibiton, “Hawaii, Islands of Aloha.”

This is what she sketched:

She detailed her artistic process on her blog.

And here is her final piece:

I love it. She also has a shop. :-)

Sotheby’s Bling: Brooch Hair Combs

Jewelry by any other fitting shines as sweet.

A woman can buy almost any brooch or pendant and pin it on a bun, hat, or headband. We don’t have to follow jewelers. We have to follow our imaginations and order fittings. For example, here is how you could attach a pendant to a black velvet headband:

This modern pendant is made of translucent icy jadeite with diamonds set in white gold. Sotheby’s estimates its value at $10,000. It depicts the Guan Yin, who is revered by East Asian Buddhists. In Sanskrit, she is known as the bodhisattva, or enlightened existence. She is associated with compassion and mercy and was named after Empress Shen Wuhua of the Chen Dynasty (557-589), whose Buddhist-nun name was Guan Yin.

For a night, I would substitute this pendant for the diamond star on the black velvet headband and be honored to wear it.

Here are some other items I would buy:

The yellow-sectioned bakelite ornament is sewn into the black straw hat. Whoever put this Cartier diamond-and-onyx, chain-link brooch on top has an eye. The pear-shaped diamond at the bottom of the brooch is 3.46 carats, D in color, and internally flawless. c. 1915. Price estimate: $190,000.

This 18K-gold leaf brooch / hair ornament is a modern, signed piece by Tsai An Ho. The lady bugs have tourmaline cabachons with moonstone and tsavorite-garnet eyes. Price estimate: $9000.

This Art Deco ornament was made by the House of Mauboussin in Paris, c. 1930. Price estimate: $33,000. The company was awarded the Grand Prix at the Exposition des Arts Décoratifs in the 1920’s for its dedication to the Art Deco movement. Mauboussin organized a diamond exhibition in 1931, and this piece probably comes from that. It can be separated into two side clips for the hair because the company made multiple fittings. Mixing small baguettes and round diamonds of different sizes, the jeweler created depth and perfect balance.

If we went to the opera in our Mauboussin, which purse would we bring? I would choose this one. Van Cleef & Arpels made it in 1923 out of seed pearls, and ornamented it with diamonds and large pear-shaped pearls. The interior is white leather. I must gush. This is the most beautiful purse I have ever seen. Price estimate: $300,000.


It’s very difficult to do scholarly research when your tongue is hanging out, and you are trying to breathe while thinking, “I want everything NOOOOOOOOOOOOOWWWWWWW!” However, these books have been added to our Resource Library for your torment, oh — information. :-)

Set in Style: The Jewelry of Van Cleef & Arpels

Van Cleef & Arpels: Tiara made for Princess Fwazia Pahlavi of Iran, 1939

Van Cleef and Arpels

Faberge Hair Pins on E-Bay

This is an exquisite set of three Faberge 18K gold, diamond and tortoiseshell hair pins. The geometric mesh is a distinctly Russian design. The combs also have an Imperial-style border and come in their original box. They are selling for $12,000.

Sewn into the original box are the gold letters of Faberge. The crest over them has the double-headed eagle with a crown in the middle of it. As we learned from the ivory liturgical comb commemorating Sophia Paleologue, this is the mark of the Tsar, which means that these combs were made for the Royal Family.

If you look at the maker’s marks in the back of the larger gold hair pin, you will see Faberge’s name, and what I believe is ES, the mark of work master Eduard W. Shramm, who came to St. Petersburg from Germany and made cigarette cases and other small jeweled pieces.

This is a picture of the original Faberge store on 24 Bolshaya Morskaya in St. Petersburg, ca. 1910.


For more scholarly research, please examine these books, which can be found in our Resource Library.

Faberge: Imperial Jeweler

The Comb: Its History and Development

Le Peigne Dans Le Monde

English Citrine Parure at Sotheby’s

Although this magnificent gold and citrine parure came from a Spanish collection, I believe its origin is English, c. 1830. This is because there is a special pouch in the original box for different fittings, which allow pieces to be worn in different ways.

The bracelet clasps can be removed and worn as brooches. Post and clip fittings allow the earrings to be flexible, as well. Each hair ornament comes with a two-pronged hair pin, but they can also be put together to make a tiara. The parure is set with citrines in gold scroll and floral repoussé work motifs.

If this set were French, I’d expect to see an Empire comb with a citrine tiara attachment. It sold 30,000 GBP at Sotheby’s.


For more scholarly research, please examine these books, which can be found in our Resource Library.


Timeless Tiaras


The Real Sophia, wife of Ivan the Great, on a Russian Orthodox Comb

In 1237, Genghis’s grandson Batu-Khan invaded Kievan Rus and burned all its cities to the ground. Ivan III Vasilyevich — the Great (1440-1505) defeated the Mongols and took the land back. He also rebuilt the Kremlin, which was then a fortress of churches and palaces, and established The Grand Duchy of Moscow, becoming the first Tsar.

He married Sophia Paleologue in 1472, niece of the last Byzantine Emperor at the suggestion of Pope Paul II. The Pope thought this marriage would allow him to consolidate the Roman and Eastern Orthodox faiths under his authority after Constantinople fell to the Ottoman Turks in 1453.

Forensic reconstruction of Sophia done in 1994

But it didn’t happen. Sophia was shrewd, powerful, and loved her family’s Eastern Orthodox faith. She assimilated the elaborate ceremonies of Byzantine Christianity into Moscow’s court, including the double-headed eagle. A religious symbol in ancient Turkey, Byzantine culture placed a crown in the middle of the eagle’s two heads to symbolize the Emperor’s power over the East and West.


is a Russian ivory liturgical comb, c. 1680. It resides at the Hermitage Museum in St. Petersburg. The text reads “God is one, God is serenity.”

However, I believe the woman on each edge is a left- and right-side profile portrait of the REAL Sophia, not in a burial headdress, but in the tiara she wore while she lived. An oral historian could have described her to the comb’s maker. In the center is her historical legacy: the double-headed eagle with a crown, a national symbol of Russia to this day.


This research was done with the help of Vadim Zaliva.

For more scholarly research, please examine these books, which can be found in our Resource Library.

Ivan III and the Unification of Russia
The Eagle Has Two Faces: Journeys Through Byzantine Europe


Crayfish on Japanese Combs

The Creative Museum bought a new Japanese comb. I think it’s Taisho, c. 1915.

Although the comb shape is different from this late Edo example below, the idea is the same. A cambaroides japonicus, or Japanese crayfish is folded over the comb. The Creative Museum’s fish has a golden eye, while the late Edo comb’s fish seems to be molting its carapace, or shell.

This decapod crustacean is native to Hokkaido and Touhoku in Northern Japan, where they live in clean, cool water. (Lobsters live in salt water.)


Subtext: I found the fish! ;-)

BarbaraAnne’s Hair Comb Buying Guide

Here are my picks from around the web.

This masterpiece was brought to my attention by The Creative Museum. Merci, Monsieur Touzinaud.

The most magnificent cameos are those where the artist gives the natural coloration in the stone a purpose in his carved figure. In these stunning examples, the color defines flowers in the women’s hair.

After the French Revolution of 1789, Napoleon Bonaparte, then First Consul, wore combs with three medallions, which held up his shoulder-length hair in a bun. Medallions on the best combs were porcelain cameos. On E-Bay, just such an 18th Century comb from is selling for 3500 Euros. Gold outlines vermeil as well as the three sublime cameos. The decoration sits on tortoiseshell. I have asked the seller for a closeup of the maker’s marks to see if I can find out who the jeweler was.

On Ruby Lane, a beautiful Victorian tortoiseshell comb is selling for $395. The pique work is done by hand in 14K gold, it has a Peigne Josephine influence, beautiful condition, c. 1850. I love it.

These silver kanzashi in perfect condition depict traditional Japanese instruments and are selling on E-Bay for $680. The biwa rests on top of a drum. They are listed as being c. 1930.

I love this antique Mexican silver comb with an amber carving of Maya woman. She is wearing a traditional headdress with earrings that move. The comb was made to hold a mantilla veil. I love the open design paired with the intricacy and accuracy of the carving. It symbolizes imagination and a respect for Indian ancestors in a Spanish world, and is selling for $254 on E-Bay.

This enamel-on-silver Chinese hair pin, c. 1900, is selling for $165 on E-Bay.

From the site 1stdibs, this French Art Nouveau comb c.1905 was first sold at the Galleries LaFayette in Paris and ended up with a dealer in Chicago. The maker is unknown, and it is selling for $650.

Finally, a beautiful blonde tortoiseshell English Victorian comb supports tulip buds in crescent moons on top of a row of seed pearls. It was made by Treacher & Co, is in pristine condition and comes in its original box. Price: $2250. c. 1880. Also found on 1stdibs.


For more scholarly research, please examine

The Riches of the French Empire by the Creative Museum, as well as these books, which can be found in our Resource Library.

The Comb: Its History and Development

Le Peigne Dans Le Monde

Hair Combs: Identification & Values

Las “Falleras” Valencianas

By The Creative Museum. The English translation may be found in the first comment.

Tous les ans, du 14 au 19 mars, à Valencia, a lieu l’une des fêtes les plus réputées d’Espagne : “LAS FALLAS”. Elle attire un nombre considérable de touristes venus de toute l’Europe. C’est LA Fête au sens pur de l’art, de la culture valencienne, du bruit, de la musique, de la lumière et du feu, le tout poussé à l’extrême. Las Fallas, c’est aussi la fête de tous, des plus jeunes aux plus anciens.

Pour les femmes de la ville, c’est l’occasion de revêtir leurs plus beaux atours, selon une tradition vieille de plusieurs siècles. On organise aussi des concours pour désigner la plus belle FALLERA de l’année.

Leur costume est magnifique : une robe brodée d’or et d’argent, un châle de dentelle et des chaussures de satin, mais leur coiffure attire particulièrement l’attention. C’est en soi une œuvre d’art qui nécessite une longue préparation et de nombreux accessoires. La parure complète de “fallera valenciana” comprend un grand peigne en laiton repoussé et deux petits peignes de côté assortis, des épingles pour fixer les macarons de cheveux tressés et deux tiges à double extrémité décorées de strass qui se glissent en travers du chignon.

Cet ensemble est complété par des bijoux assortis : pendants d’oreilles, broche de corsage et collier de perles. (Note de l’éditeur: ce collier de perles du XVIIe siècle en Espagne a été utilisé dans le film Alatriste)

Creative Museum possède d’autres modèles de grands peignes que vous découvrirez dans le Museum.

The teeth are missing on the two small combs

This Spanish instruction document lists each item of a fallera costume. Depending on the fabric of the dress, silk being the most expensive, the complete outfit can cost from 2,000 to 10,000 euros.


For more scholarly research, please examine

How to create the Valencia Hairstyle Professionals who will create the hairstyle for you
Las fallas de Valencia / The Festival of Saint Joseph

Jessica Beauchemin Wins the Prix François-Houdé

Beaming with pride, it is my honor to announce that Jessica Beauchemin

has won the Prix François-Houdé in Montréal, a prize for excellence in new craftsmanship. The contest is a collaboration between the Ville de Montréal and the Conseil des métiers d’art du Québec.

(You may click on these images to see larger versions of them.)

She won it with her new series, Bestiaire,

Bestiaire I - Dasyatis sephen

Bestiaire I – Dasyatis sephen, 2011
Medium: Black Ebony, Movingui Veneer, Stingray polished and non polished
Finish: Linseed Oil and Beeswax
Techniques: Bending, Sculpture, Marquetry
Dimensions: 26 x 10.5 x 3 cm
Photographer: Nicolas Chentrier

She told us how adopting a personal sense of time was essential to being an artist. In Jessica Beauchemin: Collection Bestiaire and A Sense of Time, she allowed us to look inside her creative process, “À une époque où le temps est calculé en efficacité et en rentabilité, mon travail de création, axé sur le détail, la précision et la minutie, se veut un éloge du temps.”

English translation:
“In an era where efficiency and profitability define its value, my creative work eulogizes an older calculation of time, when its purpose focused on applying thorough accuracy to minute details.”

This allowed her achieve harmony as she mastered marquetry with stingray, feathers, and mother of pearl. The masterpiece hair combs she created in the silence of her convictions were recognized by the real world this year.

Congratulations to the Prix François-Houdé lauréate, the sublime Jessica Beauchemin.