Category Archives: American Hair Comb

The Creative Museum World Tour

Another blog wrote about them: Le Blog de Cameline! She tells the story of the family in French. This post will be an English translation, and then I will pick some of my favorite combs from this magnificent collection, so we can enjoy both posts.

Cameline says, “The Creative Museum is a virtual museum devoted to hair ornaments.

Its history began 100 years ago, when Little Leona accompanied her military husband around the world. As she traveled, she collected treasures, which she kept in a shoe box. Upon her death, her grandchildren found the box. Wonder and passion was instantly exchanged through the generations.”

It was a moment that changed the family’s life forever. The grandchildren — thinking out of the box? (don’t kill me you guys :-) — collected over 2500 hair ornaments from all over the world and became scholars on their history. Chosen with a great eye, bought with bargaining acumen, written about beautifully, and photographed brilliantly, this collection is documented online for the world to see.

It has made its way into real museums, and the site is famous for its virtual exhibitions. The value of Leona’s passion has been realized. I cannot help but think of Emily Dickinson, one of America’s greatest poets, who hid her genius in a trunk, too, until her family opened it and had an epiphany.

Cameline chose her favorite pieces from The Creative Museum, so I encourage everyone to read her post. But here are a few of mine:

This bearded mask wears a traditional bird comb, a symbol of fertility. From the Kpeliye Brotherhood of the Senufo people, they are worn at the Royal Court. It comes from the Ivory Coast, c. 1950.

This tortoiseshell hairpin features a claw from a bird of prey. It is from North America.

This Afghan barrette dangles pendants below red and green gemstones. c. 1940.

Two phoenixes face each other in this 19th Century Chinese jade comb.

English Art Nouveau jewelers made this brass woman with flowers instead of feet and a crescent on her head.

In Japan, they loved ravens. The Meiji style has the drawing fold over to the back of the kushi.

Swedish silversmiths were well known for their Minimalist style, as in this wedding tiara with pearls and tourmalines designed by Ulf Sandberg of Göteborg.

When celluloid was invented in 1862, comb-making machines lowered the cost of production considerably. In France, the industry center was in Oyonnax. Innovative design thrived with the flexibility new plastics and speed of production. This hand-painted daisy comb is a prime example of a comb made between the Art Nouveau and Art Deco periods.

Completing our world tour is a stop in New Guinea, where ancestor worship was predominant in the culture. From the Keram River area in a Kambot village comes this bamboo hair pin.


For more scholarly research, please examine the publications of 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



From the English, we know that different fittings can make an extraordinary piece of jewelry into a practical object. Consider multiple functions for a set of diamond brooches.

I have always felt you can take a brooch to a jeweler and ask him or her to make a barrette fitting in addition to the pinback. This simple act increases your choice of ornaments 100-fold.

Movie stars have made fashion history doing this.

Here are some brooches I would wear in my hair.

J.E. Caldwell was an American jeweler from Philadelphia. He was known for his Art Nouveau and Art Deco pieces and made this platinum-mesh and diamond bow c. 1920.

Boucheron made this feather out of gold, rubies, and diamonds in 1940.

A member of the elite jewelers of Taxco, Antonio Pineda made this brooch c. 1955.

Born in the tenements of NYC’s Lower East Side to immigrant parents, he took the name Seaman because he could see the Seaman’s Savings Bank from his apartment window. From the 1930’s to the 1950’s, Mr. Schepps’s pioneering designs attracted customers such as the Duchess of Windsor and Franklin Roosevelt. He designed this set of opal and diamond butterfly pins, which could easily be worn as two side barrettes, c. 1960.

David Webb made this posy of violets in the 1980’s. The violets are sapphires with emerald centers on jade leaves with diamond stems.

Van Cleef & Arpels made this Christmas rose out of angel-skin coral and diamonds in 2000.

Finally, a hair comb by Georg Jensen himself.


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

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

Charles Loloma Hair Comb

What does an innovator do when his soul, land, and religion belong to a race who survived genocide? How does an artist feel when his genius compels him to consider all cultural ideas equally, even those of the countries responsible for the genocide?

Early in his career, Charles Loloma realized that many traditional Native American designs, such as the squash-blossom necklace, came from Spanish influence, so he reached outside the Hopi Nation. He was the first jeweler to combine Mediterranian salmon and oxblood coral, gem-quality Lone Mountain turquoise, ivory, gel sugulite, exotic woods, silver, and 14K gold into jewelry. His bracelets and necklaces sought to express the texture of Hopi land and water, as well as the sacred masks of Kachina dancers. The groundbreaking way in which Loloma combined ideas made new art, which allowed people to understand the Hopi ethos more powerfully.

Here is a bracelet of a kachina face, symbolically interpreted in 14K gold, ivory, coral, turquoise, and charoite. Price on request.

In 1941, Rene d’Harnoncourt included a mural by Loloma at the highly successful exhibition, “Indian Art of the United States,” at the Museum of Modern Art. However, in the 1950s, as Loloma’s artistic courage was redefining Native American art, breaking down regional barriers, and bringing Hopi artists out of isolation, an all-white consortium of hotel and restaurant owners called the Gallup Inter-Tribal Ceremonial rejected his work three times for not being “Indian enough.” In other words, Loloma didn’t make stereotypical pieces white business owners thought white tourists would buy.

He made only three hair ornaments in his career. One of them is on sale at the Indian River Gallery. It uses his mosaic motif and combines stones with ironwood and silver. Price: $22,000. The valuation is correct. You may examine other Loloma pieces at Christie’s.

Charles Loloma was born near the village of Hotevilla on the Third Mesa of the Hopi Reservation on January 7, 1921. The reservation covers 2500 square miles of Northeastern Arizona and is made up of three “mesas,” flat table-top-like portions of land surrounded by cliffs. This terraced farmland is just beneath Hotevilla.

Loloma belonged to the Honani, the Badger phratry (fraternity) of the Hopi, which included many clans: Miunyan (porcupine), Wishoko (turkey-buzzard), Bull (butterfly), Buliso (evening primose), and Kachina (sacred dancer). He was also a snake priest, a revered status in Hopi culture. Every two years, snake priests dance to worship ancestors and bring rain. This is Loloma’s signature gold badger-claw ring coupled with a silver, coral, and silver snake pin.

He would travel from world to world, Paris one week, back on the reservation to perform religious duties the next. To explain the disparity, he said, “Two times I’ve been to Europe and Paris and have experienced what fine things are, but in order to create valid art, you have to be true to yourself and your heritage.

“I feel a strong kinship to stones, not just the precious and semi-precious stones I use in my jewelry, but the humble stones I pick up at random while on a hike through the hills or a walk along the beach. I feel the stone and think, not to conquer it, but to help it express itself”

This necklace, which was featured in a 1978 exhibit at the Heard Museum in Phoenix, is priced at $75,000.

“I wish to create a relationship between the earth and myself,” Loloma says. “Sometimes we do not realize what we are kicking over.” He selects a piece of rock from the red ground. “I want to make the soul come out.”


For more scholarly research and jewelry enjoyment, please examine

Loloma – Beauty Is His Name

Sterling Silver Authentic Native American Bear Claw Bracelet

Squash Blossom Necklace with Earrings

Alexander Calder Hair Comb Collection

When Alexander Calder was a young man, he worked as a fireman in a ship’s boiler room. While the ship was anchored off the Guatemalan coast, he woke up on deck to see one side of the sky pink and orange with a rising sun, and the other side blue with a falling moon.

Having experienced this serendipitous wonder, he naturally embraced Surrealist philosophy, which is grounded in unexpected juxtapositions. He remained a leader in this movement until his death.

In addition to the mobiles and stabiles that made him famous, Calder also created 1800 pieces of jewelry. He started making jewelry at age 10 for his sister’s dolls, using wire he found in the streets. However by the late 1930’s and ’40’s, his Surrealist ideas created jewelry sculptures. Among them were combs and tiaras.

He used wire or brass left over from his sculptures to make gifts for friends, such as Peggy Guggenheim, Georgia O’Keeffe, his wife Louisa (grandniece of Henry James), and the wives of Marcel Duchamp and Marc Chagall. During WWII, metal was scarce so he didn’t waste any. However, his wire was wrapped, not soldered.

Here is a collection of Calder’s hair ornaments. The identification key can be found at the bottom of this post:


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

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.

Alexander Calder

Jewelry Identification Key: 1: from The Memorial Gallery of Art, Rochester, NY. not dated. 2: a comb made of brass wire, c. 1940, The Calder Foundation, NY. 3: another comb made of brass wire, c. 1940, The Calder Foundation, NY. 4: tiara made from brass and steel wire, c. 1940, The Calder Foundation, NY. 5: Brass tiara. Sir Kenneth Clark purchased the piece for his wife at the Freddy Mayor Gallery in England in 1938. 6: John and Ruth Boland acquired this brooch/barrette at the Paris Exhibition in Washington, D.C. in 1944. It sold for $192,000 at Sotheby’s in 2006. 7: From the estate of Francis J. Whitney, Calder made this comb in 1948. It sold at Sotheby’s for $57,000 in 2009. 8: Called the Andalusian comb, this silver piece is available at The Pace Gallery in New York. Price upon inquiry. 9: This gilded brass comb was a gift from Mr. and Mrs. Alexander Calder to the Smithsonian American Art Museum in 1968. 10: Made of hammered brass before 1943, Calder gifted this comb to the Museum of Modern Art in NY.

Ebay Dealer Valuations

So often we see antique dealers on Ebay value a masterpiece for almost nothing. The prime example this year was the 17th Century whale-bone Paikea comb. However, sometimes dealers price items astronomically. Currently, there is a Buy It Now for $1950 on a coin-silver American comb, which is a lovely piece. It has an eagle, the American flag, and the carving is set off by two tulips. Beautifully themed, but $1950? The theme does not supersede the material and the comb’s lack of provenance.

If documentation could prove a First Lady of the United States wore that particular comb at an historical event, it would attract American history collectors. A bigger market might find a buyer at that price. But without such a once-in-a-lifetime connection, I’d pay around $200 for the patriotic theme, even though it was on coin silver. I’m interested in other opinions on value. What would you pay?


For more scholarly research, please examine

The Dazzle of the US a multimedia presentation by The Creative Museum

The Comb, by Jen Cruse

Hair Combs: Identification and Values by Mary Bachman

Ebay: Art Deco Bird Comb

It’s on E-bay for $229 or best offer. I’m not recommending anyone buy it at that price, or at all, but I love this comb, c. 1930. I think it has humor, pizzazz, and is an excellent example of American celluloid art.


For more scholarly research, please examine

The Creative Museum’s virtual exhibition on American brilliant combs.

Creative Museum: Folk and Personal Combs

By The Creative Museum:

Nous ouvrons toujours des yeux émerveillés devant des peignes qui méritent le titre d’œuvre d’art. Nous admirons la beauté et la richesse des matériaux, la perfection des formes, le savoir-faire des orfèvres qui créent ces véritables bijoux.

Mais c’est un autre sentiment tout particulier qui nous saisit devant les témoignages d’art populaire.
Ils nous parlent des traditions d’une région et nous font saisir l’âme des gens.

Un peigne confectionné par une personne individuelle nous touche par sa charge sentimentale. On est ému par ses maladresses de formes et de façon. On cherche à déchiffrer le sens de ce qui est représenté. C’est une pièce destinée au départ à une personne précise. Mais elle a pu traverser les générations et elle est alors porteuse de toute une histoire. Si nous laissons notre imagination vagabonder, on peut en voir le film.

Ce peigne peut être naïf, les matériaux peuvent être de vil prix. Et pourtant il devient un objet de valeur par le fait qu’il est unique.


For more scholarly research, please examine

American Folk Art by William C. Ketchum Primitive and Folk Jewelry by Michael Gerlach
French Folk Art by Jean Cuisenier

Susan Maxwell Schmidt: LongLocks HairSticks

We are honored to present an interview with jewelry artist Susan Maxwell Schmidt of LongLocks HairSticks. Her philosophy of making each piece a one-of-a-kind work of art has given her jewelry an international fan base. Of course everyone wants to know how she does it.

BA: How do you choose your beads?

Susan: “Whenever I look at a bead, I imagine it on one of my designs. I don’t try to do this, I can’t help but do this. If I like what my mind’s eye sees, then it gets added to my massive bead collection. Not that I don’t sometimes buy beads with no intention of ever putting them on hair sticks (a set of hand-carved huge but gorgeously delicate smoky topaz leaves I bought for a necklace comes to mind). That being said however, I’ll sit on some beads for years and “rediscover” them again at some point, and often what I end up using them for is entirely different from the purpose for which I initially bought them.”

BA: Do you look at the bead and choose the hair-stick style, or does your creative process go the other way around?

Susan: I swing both ways. Special-edition design sticks are often designed for the beads. I give myself more leeway in designing the other way around for regular designs, which gives me an excuse to forage through the bead drawers. I have them arranged by company/country/color in my studio. In addition, there are boxes of beads I haven’t had a chance to organize yet. That’s when I do a lot of the “rediscovering” I mentioned earlier. “Whoa, where’d they come from? Never seen those before!”

BA: What inspires you to come up with a new LongLocks HairSticks style?

Susan: Anything that is artistic or can be perceived from an artistic point of view. I have been inspired by things as simple as a color, a pattern in fabric, or a single painting or dyeing technique. My most unusual inspiration came when Home Depot screwed me on a granite order so I finished the horrendous Formica countertops in my otherwise gorgeous kitchen in copper foil with veining of multicolor metallic earth tones and a buff of black acrylic. Once the whole thing was sealed under a thick coat of Bar Coat, I loved it so much I had to do something similar on hair sticks. That’s how LongLocks MineraliStix and RomanzaStix were born (put them together and you know what my kitchen counters look like).

BA: Which fashion icons have inspired you, in your art and in your life?

Susan: I don’t know that my art is directly inspired by fashion icons but surely it ends up being affected by my fashion sense and tastes. I am a fashionista, and though I do love clothes my uncontrollable shopping addiction is all about accessories, especially jewelry, handbags and shoes. I am currently on a major Kendra Scott kick and think I’ll end up owning just about every pair of chandelier earrings and cuff she makes. I feel as though as far as design goes, she is to affordable designer jewelry what I am to hair accessories… if I designed production jewelry, it would all be in the same style as Kendra Scott’s. My favorite fashion designers (keeping it to the bare minimum and keeping it in the moment) are Alexander McQueen, Marchesa, Dior, Zuhair Murad and Valentino. My fav accessories designers are Alexander McQueen, Furla, Isabella Fiore, Adrienne Vittadini and Chanel. And Kate Spade. And Oscar de la Renta. And Judith Leiber. And Charles Jourdan. And Hype. And Marc Jacobs. And Junior Drake. And La Fiorentina. And…

BA: Everyone knows your designs come from your own creativity. That is why you have such a fan base. How do you feel about people who rip off your designs?

Susan: You know, it used to bother me a lot but years ago someone pointed out to me how much better it is to be in the position of being the one people want to copy rather than being someone so sadly unimaginative as to have to copy others. That was an epiphany for me and changed my entire outlook on the subject. There are so few people who are seriously designing handmade upscale hair jewelry that it becomes blatantly obvious to hair jewelry collectors who is copying whom. Considering how often it’s pointed out to me that someone else has done a poor job of imitating my ideas or my designs, I’ve come to the conclusion that they do infinitely more harm to themselves and their own reputation than they can possibly do to me.

Integrity is important to me and my customers know that. My designs are my designs and my customers know that. Other “artist’s” ideas are often my ideas and many of my customers tell me that. I don’t spend time thinking about what anyone else is doing and I rarely even bother to look at anyone else’s designs or sites. It’s just not important to me, and my time definitely is, so that’s not how I choose to spend it.


For more addictive shopping at affordable prices and hair-care information, please examine

LongLocks HairSticks

Longlocks Special Edition Designs

The Hair Care Recipes Cookbook

The Ultimate Guide to Growing Long Hair

Cartier Hair Comb

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.


For more scholarly research, please examine

Cartier: Innovation through the 20th Century

Catalogue of a collection of hair ornaments, pouches and toilet articles used by Japanese women;: The collection of Baron Ino Dan

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