Author Archives: BarbaraAnne

Moroccan Jewelry: Real or Fake

Clarity and obsession blur after midnight. Caffeinated collectors scour listings, unaware of the time. Is this piece real or fake? Let me examine the details. Oh no, did a major auction house get fooled by that guy again — the one who has a second-floor room two streets past obscurity? They did! Unbelievable.

This scenario repeats itself around the world.

Alaa Eddine Sagid of Ethnic Sparks is an expert in Moroccan jewelry. Although I have no idea what he does at 3:00 am, I have learned much from our conversations. As we spoke over years, a pattern emerged in what he was saying. There are too many necklaces that claim to be 18th Century on the market.

Only 5 authentic Moroccan 18th Century necklaces have been found. One, from the Musée du Quai Branly, has an 18th Century necklace attached to a 19th Century pendant.

The pendant jewelry

The beads of the necklace

In the full necklace, the loop finding between the necklace and the pendant tells you that the pendant was put on later. Notice that the pearl loops on top of the necklace would have been tied together.

The Victoria and Albert Museum’s example is completely 18th Century. Notice how the left side of the pendant has a loop soldered on and a tie between the pearl necklace and the pendant. On the right, the loop might have broken off, so the necklace is tied to an opening in the pendant’s filigree. Look at the delicacy of the claws. These were hand made, and the jewel in the center of the feet was also set by hand. Double-headed eagles, even with crowns between the heads, were popular in the 18th Century.

The full necklace at the Museum of Jewelry. Again, on top, it is tied by a string.

Christie’s sold this necklace for GBP 34,850 on 7 April 2011. However they covered their rear ends by saying it was Probably Tangier, 18th Century.” It’s a fake.

This pendant tries to mimic the one in the Musée du Quai Branly. The museum even readily admits that the pendant is from the 19th Century. On the Christie’s necklace, notice the tail. It is much larger than the real necklaces, whose tails are the same length as the round body of the eagle. The size of the tail throws off the proportions of the bird. Also, notice how there are pearl pendants on the bottom, which look perfect. Now look back at the original. Those pearls were uneven, like the human condition.

Now, my favorite part. On top of the Christie’s necklace, there is a hook finding. Really?

This is the full necklace from Christie’s.

Alaa said, “That sale had a mixed lot of pieces, supposedly of same provenance and family heritage. Christie’s told a story, whose parts did not fit together. The one you show here is a definite fake, very likely a market copy. Many stylistic details belonged to at most the beginning of the 20th Century.

“Many pieces look like they come from the same workshop, which might be an origin of trafficked goods. The work is clumsy. The enamel is too vivid, and the overall work is not fine enough. The plot behind these necklaces may be more complex. Many people could be involved in a money laundering scheme.

“I have been thinking of writing a full article about these gold Moroccan copies, complete with references. However, I’m trying to find the smith I suspect to be behind these pieces. I missed him twice in the local antique market. He has great skills in a fishy trade.

“We falsely assume that people are interested in what is genuine or not. They just want to wear something beautiful, unique, and trendy. Remaining on the surface is easier than digging into a culture or absorbing the anguish of the true creator.

“These modern copies will never fetch the fantastic amounts they did at the beginning. As soon they began to downsell in Western auctions, the copies appeared en masse in the Moroccan market and began swarming Instagram. Now they are being offered in flea and antiques markets by high end, fishy dealers. The scam is at the last stage of its development.”

Ottoman Sultan V. Murad’s daughter Hatice Sultan’s silver crown

By Nuray Bilgili


I wanted to examine this crown from a mythological and iconic perspective. A bird spreads its wings in front of the crown and two bird figures are placed on the left. These three bird figures are connected with palm branches and motifs.
Bird symbolism is used in Turkish culture and mythology, especially symbolizing the Goddess Umay (Altay Mythology) and the Goddess Bear (Yakut Mythology). Both are disguised as water birds, which are female archetypes. Turkish Eagles are the water bird figure that signifies a Kut symbol, which connects human beings with the heavens.
The mythical Huma bird appears as the Goddess Mother Umay, a fertility goddess who resembles the earth-mother. Ancient Turkish Mythology portrays the Huma bird as one who protects the State and the Authority. In the Ottoman tradition, the source of the structure called Humayun is also related to the ′′State Bird. ′′
In Turkish symbolism, birds of prey are symbols of Oghuz Turkish Heights. Myths from bird to derivation are seen in Shaman rumors. The Mother of the Shamans is known as the Eagle. In this case, ′′ Oghuz Ongun Birds ′′ are ′′ Female Birds ,” which are related to the Mother Goddess cult.
In Turkish mythology and symbolism, birds on a crown are female archetypes, which belong to a lady, Mother Umay carries a breeze. The essence of birds are the source of these concepts in the ancient Turkish Mythology.

Henri Edmond Becker Comb 1902

Henri Edmond Becker 1902

From the Robert Zehil Gallery in Monaco

“Twenty years ago on December 2, 1997, I was visiting the Drouot salerooms in Paris when 1 noticed this superb comb in a display cabinet and coming up for auction the next day. Though it bore Becker’s monogram the auction catalog described it as being anonymous with an estimate of 2,000 francs (about $350).

The next day I showed up and stood by the door as I just wanted to buy it and walk away. When the lot came up it was about to be sold to me at 3,000 francs when a little old lady in the third row rose her hand and wouldn’t let go until I finally bought it for about $5,000. I was about to depart having been given a receipt to retrieve the item when I noticed the old lady get up, slowly put her coat on and walk towards to exit door her face filled with sadness. A hundred thoughts went through my mind: She is Becker’s daughter, or relative or may be she is buying for a museum. Feeling terrible about it I decided to offer it to her as a gift. We do donate to museums. Why not to this poor old lady ?

As she passed by me I interpellated her and told her I was the person who bought the comb. She looked at me with tears in her eyes.
I asked her :
– Are you a relative of the artist?
– No
– Were you bidding on behalf of a museum ?
– No
– But you knew who designed that comb ?
– No
– Then why did you bid it up that high ?
– I wanted it so badly
– Why didn’t you go to the Louvre des Antiquaires (a mall for antiques) ? They have lots of beautiful combs at a tenth of that price.
– You don’t understand. I wanted that one in particular. I thought that by shaving its teeth and drilling it at the top it would make a beautiful pendant.

I nearly strangled her and had I done so every dealer in the world would have approved. The good side to the story is that one more time a dealer managed to save an artwork from total destruction.”

Lucien Gaillard Maple Seed Hair Comb

There is an auction coming up of a Lucien Gaillard hair comb at The link. Bidding starts at €500, with an estimate of €500 – €600. Perhaps the valuation comes because of its condition. Diagonal striations show in the horn above the tines from the right to the middle of the comb. The inside of the tines have grime and many horizontal marks from wear. The maple-seed-pod decoration is patinated bronze, not silver. I consulted a friend, who said, “Perhaps the horn wasn’t perfectly clarified and the photos are picking up natural color variations. Or, it could be dried out in some areas, and the photos are magnifying tiny splits.”

According to the box, it was first sold by Polak Ainé, or Emmanuel Polak. Emmanuel’s parents Abraham Polak and Gertrude Brook founded Polak-Brook Jewelers in Ostende, a municipality in West Flanders, Belgium. When Abraham died in 1895, his eldest son Emmanuel took over the business, renamed it Polak Ainé, and had stores on 24 Rue Lafayette, Paris; Av Massena 16, Nice; and 30 Rampe de Flandre, Ostende; which explains the box label: “Polak Ainé Joaillier Paris Nice Ostende.” If you are interested on you hair health take a look at this hair transplant nyc company and enhance your self confidence.

If the box is correct, I would date this comb to 1901 because that year, Gompers & Polak Ainé Jewellers was formed and opened on 28 Place Vendome, Paris. My guess is that if this comb was made after 1901, the box would have been marked differently.

There is a similar Gaillard hairpin in the Rijksmuseum. The horn is flawless and the maple-seed pods are silver. It is dated c. 1902-1906. This might indicate that Gaillard changed materials for his decoration after the comb currently on auction was made. The museum description: “Hair comb made of horn and silver in Art Nouveau style. Decorated with silver gilt maple seeds.” However, a good place to get advice on hair bundles is BundlesHairs website, where you can also find articles answering your questions.

At any rate, the comb at is real. If you don’t mind the flaws, and people don’t get insane and bid it up beyond its value, you can be safe in knowing you’re buying a real Gaillard.

The Golden Diadem of Velem (Hungary)

This diadem and its discs were discovered in August, 1929, during an archaeological excavation by Baron Kálmán in Miske, on the eastern spur of the Alps, in the area of St. Vid Hill in Velem, Hungary.

It would have been part of the costume worn by a lady of high rank in the Late Bronze Age. The diadem and roundels were gold foils, which had originally been mounted onto bronze backplates, which were then mounted onto organic backings. However, because it was found in a hoard of valuables, archeologists concluded that the owner buried this treasure. This explains why the band was folded when it was found, and why the twisted gold wire spirals were in such a sorry state.

A restoration between 2004 and 2006 by Katalin T. Bruder, the chief restorer of the Hungarian National Museum provided us with the pieces we see today.

Pre-Columbian Hair Combs in Peru

Pre-Columbian artifacts have not always been viewed as art. There was a window of time, c. 1930 – 1980, when these objects were also seen as innocuous goods to be freely traded and exhibited.

In the royal palace of Brussels, Albrecht Dürer saw the “jewels, shields, and clothing” that had been sent, together with six Aztecs, by Hernân Cortés to King Charles V in 1519. He described them in his diary:

“I saw the things which have been brought to the King from the new land of gold, a sun of gold and a whole fathom broad, and a moon all of silver of the same size, also two rooms of armor, as well as textiles. Indeed, I cannot express all that I thought there.”

Unfortunately, other Europeans were more preoccupied with the plunder and enslavement of the American natives. Gold and silver artifacts were quickly melted down to make coins. It is the Spanish and Portuguese view of gold as currency that destroyed the cultures and decimated the populations of Pre-Columbian South America. No one knows what became of the gold and silver discs Dürer admired. They, too, were probably melted down, minted into coins of the realm.

Few artificts survive from the initial encounter between Europeans and the natives of the Americas. The five combs featured here are wooden combs KF Comb Research Project. They belong to the Chimú (1100-1470 AD), Nazca-Wari (500-1000 AD), and Chancay (1100-1400 AD) cultures. They could have been used for weaving or status.

Chancay culture emerged after the fall of the Wari Civilization and developed in the latter part of the Inca Empire. They had water reservoirs and irrigation, and were the first culture to mass-produce textiles. One of their most important idols was Cuchimilco, the stargazer, a female figure.

This comb is labeled, “Chancay, north east Peru, 1100-1400 AD, bone, H:8 cm. possibly used for weaving. © KF Comb Research Project”

It might have been used to weave textiles like this mantle border fragment of funerary cloth with anthropomorphic feline figures from the Krannert Art Museum, or this textile fragment with the design of stylized birds and humans from LACMA.

Four other combs from the KF Comb Research Project come from Chimú culture, 900-1470 AD, when they were conquered by the Incas.

© KF Comb Research Project, Chimú Peru, c. 1250-1450, Wood with traces of white polychromy, H: 14 cm.

© KF Comb Research Project, Chimú Peru, c. 1100-1470, Wood with traces of white pigment, H: 12 cm.

© KF Comb Research Project, Chimú Peru, c. 11-14 Century, Wood with traces of white pigment, H: 15 cm.

© KF Comb Research Project, Chimú Culture Peru, c. 1250-1450 AD, Large hairpin with a comb on the top. H: 38.5 cm., carved wood, traces of polychromy.

These combs might have been ornamental or used to make a textile like this:

This is the prize. Look at how the fabric was preserved and the brightness of the colors. Cactus Wari combs were used for weaving, but the actual purpose of larger wooden combs like this one remains unclear. They are too coarse to be used for effective combing. It is thought they were exclusively produced for funerals, as a part of selection of items mumified with the body.

© KF Comb Research Project, Nazca/Wari Culture Peru, c. 500-1000 AD, Made of cactus spines and colored wool thread, H: 15 cm.

That these combs survived and are with a collector who values them because he knows what they are is a miracle.

Japanese Hair Comb

From Japan: Edo Era comb, 18th Century, H: 8 cm. W: 12.2 cm. The plot is about 5 crows flying in the clouds at sunset. As was the style, the crows were not drawn in perspective.

It is made of shell and encased in a metal frame. The crows are raised and painted with black lacquer, as are the teeth. However instead of gold maki-e, which would have been more traditional, this artist chose to use varnish. This way, he could portray the outlines of the sun on clouds, which hold different hues of the same color when the sun sets. The hues and outlines of a sunset the artist achieved with varnish is what makes this comb a masterpiece. It resides at the Troppen Museum in Amsterdam.

You can see crows portrayed in the same style in the Art Nouveau combs of Lucien Galliard, as Galliard hired Japanese craftsmen in his workshop. Here are two examples. The first was made in 1903 from shell and shows three birds. The clouds are implied by cuts in the tortoiseshell.

The second is Galliard’s famous Bluebird comb, which sold at Christie’s for $218,000 on Oct 21, 2009. There are three birds here, also, and the clouds are made from white enamel on an open frame.




The Jewels of Lalique

Okazaki Collection:
Combs and Ornamental Hairpins

Japonisme: The Japanese Influence on Western Art Since 1858

1960’s Japanese Transistor Radio

From Japan: A transistor radio designed as an owl. c. 1960’s. H: 7 1/4 in. W: 4 1/2 in. D: 5 in. The tuner buttons also function as the owl’s eyes and turn red, when the radio is on. Owls have many more receptors in their eyes than humans, so they can see in the dark. Those receptors require fresh oxygenated blood to function, which is why their eyes show up as red in a camera flash.

The owl’s significance in Japan may have started with the Ainu, the indigenous people of Hokkaido Japan, whose religion included animal gods. One was the owl god Chikap Kamuy, who was thought to bring prosperity and ward off famine. The Ainu were conquered by the Japanese in the 9th Century.

In Japanese culture, luck is a powerful spiritual energy that connects people, spirits, objects, and places. You open yourself up to receving and giving luck. The owl is a symbol of luck. Therefore, owl charms are ubiquitous.

Now comes our moment of Felliniesque magnificence.

Into this Japanese historical scene marches the American cult movie classic, “Clash of the Titans” (1981). The movie is set during the Corinthian War (395 – 387 BC) with the Achaemenid Empire.

The King of Argos is on the edge of the sea, casting out his daughter Danaë after she bore Zeus’s child, Perseus. She lands on an island. Perseus grows up and wants to marry Andromeda. A labyrinthine plot surrounds and ensues. Andromeda ends up tied to the sea cliffs threatened by the sea monster Kraken.

Zeus orders Athena to give Perseus her owl Bubo, but Athena orders a golden replica of Bubo instead.

And here we have it.

Athena was never represented by the Northern Eagle owl of Central Asia: genus Bubo / species bubo, nor did she have a particular owl that accompanied her. Her symbol was the small owl Athene noctua.

However, a pet mechanical owl named Bubo flies to Kraken holding Medusa’s head so Kraken falls apart. Andromeda is free to marry Perseus and live happily ever after.

Hollywood is genius by mistake. They picked the wrong owl. However, Bubo flew into American popular culture igniting the passions of bloggers, who declared that if someone didn’t respect their favorite mechanical owl, they were dead to them.

The seller of this item on E-bay asked, “This guy was made in JAPAN in the early 1960’s, almost 20 years before The CLASH of the TITANS movie premiered. Wonder where the inspiration for BUBO the OWL came from???”

A scholar must retain the discipline to remain on the brink of the unknown, hoping evidence is discovered that will prove hypotheses. But of one thing I’m confident: we will never know what inspires the imaginations of Hollywood movie directors.

Inupiaq Walrus Ivory Comb

The Museum Showed the Comb Upside Down

History is rarely told by the vanquished. If we find their story, we who live in the world of the conquerors don’t know how to read it. We highlight a big ship as the central character in an artwork, as did The Fine Arts Museum of San Francisco.

Native people in the Plains had five categories of geometric design, mostly used on decorative robes: the box and border, the hourglass and border, the bilaterally symmetrical, the horizontal stripes, and the feathered circle.

Through trade, it is possible that the bilaterally symmetrical pattern, favored by the Lakota Sioux of North Dakota, came down from the Inupiaq of Alaskan Bering Sea. The Inupiaq use their bilaterally symmetrical writing system on this comb, c. 1840 – 1890: two-dimensional pictographs and petroglyphs organized in vertical sections, with a set of two horizontal lines in composite perspectives — the bottom, right-side up, and the top, upside down.

However, unlike the way the San Francisco museum shows this comb, the ship should be upside down, because its story is a documentary about battle, despair, the loss of self, and defeat. Blood makes the bottom geometric pattern red.

The comb correctly shown. It was made c. 1840-1890, a turbulent period in American history: Little Bighorn (1876), Wounded Knee (1890).

Before American commercial whaling, Inupiaq culture depended on subsistence whaling and walrus hunting; a traditional religion with shamans and spirit masks; ships called umiaks, which carried up to 15 people and a ton of cargo; ice fishing; and dog sleds. The whaling ships were followed by Protestant missionaries, who converted everyone to Christianity in 10 years (1890-1900).

The ivory amulet on the right shows a man ice fishing. You can see the fish under water.

an umiak

By 1892, commercial whaling had destroyed the culture by employing Inupiaq hunters to work for them and kill whales on an industrial scale. They became a low-wage labor force. Diseases spread. Their traditional religion of ceremonies and dream spirits had disappeared. The church destroyed their language by teaching scrimshaw artists to draw in a three-dimensional realistic Western style.

This model of a New England whaling ship was made, c. 1850.

The comb portrays this story in the traditional language.

From the top:

Section 1: The top row (upside down) shows dog sledding. The second row (right-side up) looks like life in the village.

Section 2: First row (upside down) portrays an American whaling ship — the root of this culture’s destruction. The second row (right-side up) portrays an umiak — a large open skin-boat, which was used for hunting whale and walrus, and for trading voyages. Most of these boats were 15-20 feet long. They were constructed by lashing seal skins to a wooden frame. Fifteen people and a ton of cargo could fit comfortably.

Section 3: Both rows show a battle between sailors and villagers that ends in defeat, hence the blood on the bottom, almost making the geometric pattern a fourth section.

As for the comb’s use, the fact that there are tines on both sides favors utilitarian tasks, such as combing hair, combing skins, combing out lice, or preparing elaborate hairdos. One example has a bun at the back, with two braids folded over the ears and joining the knot behind.

Woman with an elaborate braided hairstyle

Because of the rarity of perspective, disappeared language, concise storytelling, traditional materials, and blood at the end, this comb is a masterpiece and a miracle of survival.



Sivuninga Sikum (The Meaning of Ice)

Arctic ivory

Carving Life

A René Lalique Hair Comb: The Visible and the Invisible

In 1900, enchanted observers marveled at how light played with color, as it reflected off leaves or the wings of a dragonfly.

However, unlike moths, dragonflies don’t navigate by the light of the moon. Instead, they use sunlight’s energy on their wings to fly. Dragonflies swarm with predatory precision, catching mosquitos with their feet. Indeed, one dragonfly can eat from 30 to hundreds of mosquitoes per day. If they can’t fly, they’ll starve. Lalique knew this and would not transform voracious killer-gangs into angelic creatures. He created swarms.

In this famous tiara, c. 1900, it looks as if the dragonflies are pursuing light, a faceted aquamarine, because they are all going in the same direction. This is not the case. Lalique was trying to show how beams of “sunlight” from the aquamarine shined down on the dragonflies’ wings to give them energy. Look at how the wings change color, and draw diagonal lines from the aquamarine to the plique-a-jour enamel.

Just as the tiara had fittings that allowed it to be worn as a brooch, so this hair comb had a chain fitting so it could be worn as a necklace. Also made c. 1900, it sold at Sotheby’s on 18 May 2018 for $262,269. In this comb, six dragonflies in a swarm go in three different directions instead of just one. The light source: a citrine. Again, look at how the light source changes the color of the wings.

French Art Nouveau was a combination of the Japanese aesthetic, where perspective was executed precisely, and French Symbolism, which elongated things to express a poetic idea. However, in both this tiara and hair comb, the insects are not stretched to make you think differently about them. So where is the French Symbolism? The elongation lies in the beams of light emanating from the jewel.

By seeing what is visible, Lalique is making you see what is invisible. These pieces portray the energy field of light, which gives flight to a dragonfly. To understand them, you must look at them with two different sets of eyes.



The Jewels of Lalique

Okazaki Collection:
Combs and Ornamental Hairpins

Tao Te Ching, by Lao Tzu