Category Archives: American Hair Comb

American Eagle Combs

When I meditate at Las Aguilas Ranch, golden eagles glide silently across the Rio Grande. Human conflict remains a distant noise, irrelevant to their command of the air. Yet native and immigrant Americans have idolized our national bird forever. Combs are no exception. Here are a few examples from the Creative Museum’s North American collection.

c. 1890, tortoiseshell, hinged.

c. 1910, back- and side-comb set, rhinestones.

c. 1890, a claw holds a ball, tortoiseshell

c. 1920, celluloid comb with an eagle motif

c. 1940, Tlingit shaman comb of an eagle eating a jaguar. The Tlingit are an indigenous people from the Pacific Northwest coast of Alaska.


For more scholarly research, please examine

The American Eagle in Art and Design

Creative Museum: American Dazzle

The Creative Museum has just introduced its fourth slide presentation on the history of American celluloid combs. It is masterful and puts the correct respectful valuation on celluloid, which allowed artists’ imaginations to go wild. Here is “Spotlight on the United States.”

I could tell you about these pictures, but it would probably be more educational to see the Creative Museum’s presentation. :-)

Dominick & Haff Silver Combs

When thinking of Sterling Silver combs and hair pins, our thoughts usually travel to Birmingham, England. However, New York City had a notable tradition for making beautiful silver pieces, as well.

Dominick & Haff started out as William Gale & Son in 1862. Gale’s son took over the company in 1866. The company then became known as Dominick & Corning in 1867, Gale & Corning in 1869, Gale Dominick & Haff in 1870, and finally Dominick & Haff in 1872. All these name changes suggest drama. Reed & Barton finally purchased the company in 1928.

Dominick & Haff was known for silverware, tea sets, bowls, and platters. However on the side, they made hair combs: intricately carved masterpieces with complicated shapes cut out of solid silver, or openwork.

Here are some examples from our community.

This one comes from the Creative Museum. It is a silver D&H cap on a tortoiseshell comb. I have never seen this combination before. Most of them are all silver.

Here is one with has both beautiful carving and openwork.

Here are two pictures of mine.

Memorial Day

To all the soldiers who have served, returned, were injured, endured being a prisoner of war, went missing, or have given their lives for this country, we thank you. We honor you. May our community give you a simple gift, a comb holder made from barn wood on an American farm, c. 1900. It was used by one of the children you so valiantly protected. We stand and salute you. God Bless America.

Silver Kanzashi

The kanzashi’s original purpose was a charm against evil spirits. The tradition began as early as 1000 BC to 300 AD, in Japan’s Jomon Era. Decorating them with flowers invited deities. The art captured the Japanese cultural imagination in the Edo era (1603 – 1867), when criminal activity increased. This initiated laws that prohibited people from going out in hats or head coverings, so hairdressing once again came to the forefront of Japanese fashion.

There are many different kinds of kanzashi:

  • Mimikaki: an ear pick on the end.
  • Tama: decorated with a single coral or jade ball. However now, many materials are used.
  • Hirauchi: a flat silver circle decorated with flowers or symbols
  • Hana: strings of dangling flowers, worn by geishas
  • Bira Bira: fans with long dangling chains, which have ornaments at the bottom

The most interesting ones have unique elements, either as a single decoration or a set of concepts. I’d like to feature three today, one each, from my collection, The Miriam Slater Collection, and The Creative Museum.

My bridal kanzashi is decorated with Mino-Kame — a straw raincoat, which used to be worn before the invention of textiles; a tortoise and pine boughs for longevity; a scroll of wisdom; a treasure box; and flowers, indicating nobility.

Miriam’s kanzashi is unique. A man with a fishing pole sits on a curved leaf structure, surrounded by dangling chains.

Finally, the Creative Museum has one I absolutely love: a gold fish, whose face looks almost human.

Diamond Thoughts, Old and New

This is a modern replica of a Victorian tiara, made of 5 graduated diamond flowerheads, some have a 2- to 3-carat fancy vivid yellow diamond in the center and 2 or more carats of D flawless white diamonds, which make up the petals. There are also marquise-shaped yellow diamonds on the bandeau. It is part of a parure. This 5-piece set and can either be hooked onto the necklace to make a second tier or worn as the tiara, shown. With earrings, the price estimate is $500,000. It is being auctioned in Dubai on April 20.

But sometimes, artists can have different thoughts about diamonds. Here are graduated diamond studs hooked around rubber to make a bandeau. I have never seen this combination of materials before, and I love it.

Longlocks Hair Sticks: My Favorites

My friend Susan makes couture hair jewelry with inimitable style. She has shown me other hair stick makers, whom she likes. Those sticks were made by a wood turner and were beautiful, but they were for a different woman. Those of us who could not live without Susan’s art have colored flowers inside our souls. I just wanted to feature some of my favorite Longlocks Hair Sticks, and take comfort in the fact that there are modern jewelry artists who live up to the standards of craftsmanship antique collectors treasure.

Coming soon: The dazzle of the U.S.

The Creative Museum is happy to present its new exhibition on American celluloid rhinestones combs.

1st  February / 30th August 2011

To be seen on

Don’t miss!

In the U.S. at the beginning of the twentieth century, high society parties were particularly dazzling affairs. Classy women used to enhance their hairstyles with brightly-coloured combs set with sparkling rhinestones.

Amie Louise Plante

From her home in Cranston, RI, Ms. Plante creates stunning, unique pieces from silver, amethyst, pearl, brass, and enamel. One of her hair pins includes Capiz shell, which is the outer shell of Placuna placenta, a marine mollusk found in the shallow coastal waters of the Philippines. Every element of her hair combs is hand sculpted. Her work reminds me very much of the British Arts and Crafts Movement. A graduate of the Rhode Island School of Design and of Dartmouth, she has won the Art Jewelry Forum’s Emerging Artist Award. Her shop can be found on Etsy, and these combs are $1200 each.

Three Easy Pieces

These works will be auctioned at Sotheby’s on Dec. 9, 2010.

The barrette is by Cartier, circa 1905. In front, a setting of old European-cut diamonds weighs about 5 carats. Blonde tortoiseshell in back completes the piece. Price estimate: $10,000 – $15,000.

The French made magnificent H combs out of ivory and boxwood during the 15th and 16th centuries. As Medieval painting and music began to express secular themes, so the scenes carved into these combs were about love or decoration, not God. This French Medieval comb is made out of boxwood, has an intricately decorative theme, allows light to shine through it, and is estimated to be worth 6,000 to 8,000 GBP.

Our last piece is a brooch-barrette Louis Comfort Tiffany made for his father’s store, Tiffany & Co, circa 1920. He used 18-karat gold, platinum, set a round black opal in the center, and surrounded it with demantoid (green) and spessartite (orange) garnets. The garnets are accented by sapphires.