Monthly Archives: July 2012

Diadems in Ancient Greece and Egypt After Alexander the Great

In 356 BC, King Philip II of Macedon had a son, Alexander. Aristotle tutored the boy until he was 16. After his father was assassinated, Alexander inherited the throne.

By 334 BC, Alexander the Great had created one of the largest empires of the ancient world. His most notable victory came when he defeated Darius III and conquered the Persian Empire. This allowed Hellenistic culture to spread east and remain influential, even 1800 years later in the 15th Century Byzantine Empire. Though Alexander died before he could invade Arabia, Alexandria, Egypt, was still created in his name.

After his death at 33, Alexander the Great’s generals, called Diadochi, waged civil wars that broke apart his massive empire into several smaller ones. To express their newly won status as rulers, they wore white silk-embroidered ribbons ending in a Herakles knot, called “διάδημα,” or diadema. The word comes from the verb, diadeo, which means, “I bind round” or “I fasten.” These bands were quickly thereafter made from gold.

From ancient Bactria, this coin features Diodotus Soter wearing a white-ribbon diadem. He was a governor of Bactria (c. 250 BC) under Seleucid, one of Alexander’s generals. In ancient times, Bactria was a far-eastern part of the Persian Empire, not part of Afghanistan.

The treasures of Demetrias, the Ancient Greek city in Magnesia, near modern-day Volos, yielded this magnificent diadem with tendrils and a Herakles knot with Eros, c. 325-300 BC. It resides in the National Archaeological Museum of Athens.

Sotheby’s sold this mid-4th-Century-BC gold-band diadem, decorated with rosettes and beaded filigree. Smaller rosettes and lotuses can be seen above and below the main ornamentation. The diadem is listed in Greek Art, a Commemorative Catalogue of an Exhibition held in 1946 at the Royal Academy Burlington House London and sold for $218,500 on Dec. 8, 2011.

Last, from Alexandria, Egypt comes this noble-woman’s diadem with tendrils and a Herakles knot clasp. Date: c. 200 – 100 BC. It was made during the Ptolemaic Dynasty, which was started by Ptolemy Soter, another one of Alexander’s generals. He declared himself Pharaoh to appeal to Egyptian natives.The Dynasty ended with the death of Cleopatra and the Roman Conquest in 30 BC .


For more scholarly research, please examine these books, which have been added to our Resource Library.

Greek Gold: Jewellery of the Classical World

Cadence Gold – Cubitas Bellini Collection Hair Clip

Greeks on the Black Sea: Ancient Art from the Hermitage

Headdresses of Ladakh

Between the Kunlun and Himalayan mountains, in the disputed territory of Jammu and Kashmir lies the kingdom of Ladakh. Its capital, Leh, was an important stop on the trade route between Buddhist Tibet to the east and Muslim Kashmir to the west. It was also important to merchants traveling between India and China.

The region is famous for its mountain monasteries, which practice the Vajrayana sect of Mahayana Buddhism. This picture of the Lumyaru Monastery between Leh and Srinagar, Kashmir was taken by Kevin Kelly.

In the Thiskey monastery,

they have one of the most beautiful Maitreya Buddah statues in the world.

In the book, Ethnic Jewellery and Adornment, author Truus Daalder introduces us to two stunning headdresses from Ladakh.

The first is a “woman’s head ornament of flexible leather spokes and strands of coral and turquoise beads (chodpan)” from Ladakh, India, which was made in the early 20th Century. It is made of “coral, turquoise, amber, silver, and leather.”

The second is “old and unusual woman’s headdress in the shape of a perak,” a leather strap studded with stones such as lapis lazuli and turquoise. The perak also displays amulets of Ladakh deities to protect the woman from danger in the human world. They were only worn by the aristocracy and women of high economic status.

This is the perak from Ethnic Jewellery and Adornment. It has “turquoise, 7 silver amulet attachments, a textile base, cowries, amber and other beads.”

This perak resides in the Victoria and Albert Museum. Silver chains were only worn on special occasions. The stones on this headdress include turquoise, seed pearls, coral, and brass plaques representing the deities.

Here is an aristocratic woman wearing one.


For more scholarly research, please examine

Ethnic Jewellery and Adornment

The Creative Museum: From Art Nouveau to Art Deco, part 1

Highlighting intricately carved and painted horn combs, The Creative Museum defines the link between Art Nouveau and the mysterious delicacy of women. Women became inextricably linked to flowers, wearing jewelry whose wavy lines expressed a wild and spontaneous nature.

Japanese influence impacted subject matter, as insects, stems and buds caught artists’ attention. Lalique was the first one to use horn and discover the material’s possibilities. Others followed. Hair comb art became the equal of its engineering, as flowers grew on trellises and dragonflies flew across ponds.

Here are just a few pieces from The Creative Museum’s Art Nouveau collection. To see the rest of them, put in historical narrative, I urge everyone to see the presentation.

Diamond Hair Combs at Sotheby’s

It’s amazing what different artists can do with the same idea.

Boucheron made this curved diamond tiara c. 1910 in London. One could attach it to the blonde tortoiseshell comb fitting with a screwdriver. It sold for 15,600 GBP on December 15, 2005.

This diamond-and-pearl tiara hinged to a tortoiseshell comb is unsigned. In the center is large natural pearl, which can be taken out of the diamond openwork surrounding it. c. 1890. Sale price: 13,200 GBP on June 29, 2006.

Using diamonds to make this brooch look like lace, Cartier added comb and choker fittings together with a screwdriver. c. 1890. It sold for $181,000 on December 4, 2007.

Tiffany & Co. aced Art Deco design in this arrangement of diamonds, seed pearls, and platinum openwork, set on a tortoiseshell comb, c. 1910. It sold for $11,875 on December 9, 2008.

I’ll end with Art Nouveau master George Fouquet. He scrolled the top of this comb, making opal leaves, flowered with diamonds. A centerpiece of amethyst, diamonds, and gold completed his blonde tortoiseshell comb. c. 1900. Signed G.Fouquet, it sold for 7500 GBP on December 15, 2009.


For more scholarly research, please examine

Boucheron: The Secret Archives

Cartier and America

Tiffany & Co.

Lalique Diadem at Christie’s

René Lalique integrated sculpture, Symbolist philosophy, Japanese ideas, and new materials to reign as the genius of Art Nouveau design. He was also a keen observer of daily life. How many children would place garlands Christmas trees?

In this diadem, tree branches of green enamel and small diamond flowers are decorated with a mabe pearl garland. It sold at Christie’s for $112,561 on June 17, 2008.

The Creative Museum is premiering a new exhibition, From Art Nouveau to Art Deco on July 21, 2012. “This exhibition provides an insight into the characteristics of Art Nouveau and Art Deco styles. An in-depth study of the influence of these two movements on hair ornaments and styles yields meaningful findings.”

I hope everyone attends.


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

The Paris Salons, 1895-1914: Jewellery, Vol. 2: The Designers L-Z

Imperishable Beauty

Sotheby’s Catalog: Fouquet Jewelry

French Empire Comb on Ebay

Selling on ebay is a magnificent example of a French Empire comb from the Eugenie period, c. 1860. The brass gallery underneath the cameos is intricately inlaid. The 5 ox-blood coral cameos are superbly carved and surrounded by coral beads. The comb itself is shell. Excellent condition. Price: $7500 or best offer.

Another Eugenie comb sold at Sotheby’s for 3000 GBP on June 29, 2006. The ruby- and pearl-encrusted mount depicts a golden eagle fighting with a serpent. Napoleon I used the golden eagle as a symbol of his new French Empire.

Given that 2006 sale price, this dealer is betting that the market for Eugenie combs has gone up in 6 years. OK. But since the dealer knows what he’s selling, why list a Sotheby’s-level comb on E-bay in the first place?

Taiwan Hair Pin Museum

As she started her day, a mother of three prepared herself for her family and tasks. In addition to her dress, she put up her hair with pins. Her life’s routine: cooking, caring, washing, stories untold.

The Taiwan Hair Pin Museum is dedicated to her. Monetary value does not dictate its 1000-piece collection, restoration does. They have a Hair Pin Hospital.

Established on Chinese New Year’s Eve 2011, they want viewers to feel as close to the objects they display as the women who used them. Their collection spans from antiquity to the modern age. Of equal importance are photographs of the women who wore them.

“We hope we can save hairpins which people think are not important and find the true value of these hairpins, try to find a story behind ordinary objects that women used and cherished every day.”

Here are some pictures:

Oxidized bronze hair pin excavated from a grave.

Metal hair pin, woman’s hand holding ball

Metal hair pin, woman holding cooking tools

Metal hair pin with a coin of Queen Victoria

Metal hair pin of a woman’s hand

Taiwan Aboriginal hair pin from the Rukai tribe — people of the Cloud Leopard

Postcard of a Chinese beauty made for French tourists

Postcard of a hand maiden doing an aristocratic woman’s hair

How to wear Chinese Hair Slides


For more scholarly research, please examine

A World of Head Adornment

Ethnic Jewellery and Adornment

Kingfisher Blue: Treasures of an Ancient Chinese Art

Ebay: French Empire Comb

Ebay is Antiques Road Show Live. It can really get ridiculous sometimes, but I know a lot of people who have been watching this auction and wondering what the final price would be. It just sold for $876.98.

This is a French Empire Josephine-style comb, c. 1860, with beautiful large brass galleries and blue-and-white glass cameos. Excellent condition. I was having a debate with someone about whether or not the comb featured Greek Gods or Greek philosophers. My logic would dictate that Zeus is in the middle and Hera is at his left, but comments and opinions are welcome.

Jen Cruse: The Spider Motif on Combs

Spiders are not insects but belong to the class of arachnids, along with scorpions and mites. Numerous kinds of spiders exist all over the world and many weave webs from a natural secretion of silk thread exuding from glands in the underside of their abdomen, to attract insects for food. One of the most familiar types of webs is the large complex wheel-like web of the garden spider, the orb-web spider. Mythology broadly describes the web spider as the Mother of Destiny, the Great Weaver spinning the thread of life and weaving the web of time. To the American Indians an image of a spider on its web was a protective amulet against danger from wind, rain and all those natural weather phenomena which might threaten the spider’s own web.

Although the spider is not everyone’s best friend, throughout history spiders must have had a few admirers. Some sources say that, as a motif for jewellery, it originates from the beautiful and artistic hair ornaments worn by women of the Chinese ruling élite of the 17th century.

Celluloid web-and-spider comb is possibly of American origin, dating around 1920s.

Silver filigree spider in the centre of its web has a hinged 2-pronged pin attached to the reverse, making it a beguiling ornament for a dark coiffure under night lights or candles. Of indeterminable origin, it dates to the mid 20th century or earlier.


For more scholarly research, please examine

The Comb: Its History and Development

Alexander Calder Silver Hair Comb

At Sotheby’s, this Alexander Calder hair comb, c. 1940, sold for $35,000. First, a private collector in Wyoming acquired it directly from the artist. Then Sotheby’s sold it to a private collector in Connecticut, who had the auction house resell it on May 12, 2012. The comb is registered in the archives of the Calder Foundation.


For more scholarly research, please examine

Calder Jewelry by Alexander S.C. Rower
(grandson of the artist)
The Intimate World of Alexander Calder
by Daniel Marchesseau.
1989 Exhibition Catalog
with miniature works, including jewelry.