Category Archives: Edwardian Hair Comb

More Treasures from The Frances Wright Collection

Frances has been generous enough to share more of her treasures with us. The photographs were taken by her husband, Terry Wright.

This is a Romanov comb, the real thing. Faint now. It is tortoiseshell, with a gold, silver, and pearl heading and the mark of one of Faberge’s most famous designers. The original box, below, has a ruby on it. Compared to the Russian crown jewels, this comb is intimate. I imagine one of Nicholas and Alexandra’s daughters wearing it to tea.

The octagonal shagreen box has acanthus-leaf scrolling. In the middle is the Romanov crest with a ruby in the center.

A garland of enameled daises with faux citrines is hinged to a horn comb in this example. This modestly sized comb was made for a chignon at the back of the head, c. 1860.

The metal tiara is hinged to a horn comb, painted with dark blue and green enamel, and decorated with turquoise cabochons in this Art Nouveau comb. c. 1900.

A curved gilt silver band surrounded by small crystals is attached to a metal structure, which was engineered to hold 10 crystal spheres in place. The decoration sits atop a tortoiseshell comb. The piece comes in its original box with the retailer’s name, Cockburn and MacDonald, Edinburgh. c. 1860.

This is a beautiful Peigne d’Alger. A gilt silver tiara has openwork in the middle and holds three seed-pearl circles. Hanging on the bottom are two interlocking chains and three faux pearl pendants. The decoration is hinged to a horn comb. c. 1880.

This is a Huasheng (花胜), or floral hair ornament. It is worn in a chignon above the middle of the forehead. A lotus flower is the central subject. Stories about Huasheng go back to the Han Dynasty (206 BCE – 9 CE). The Book of Han, Vol 2, includes a biography of the Chinese poet Sima Xiangru, who wrote, “She lives in a cave, wearing Huasheng in her snow-white hair.” On Hunan Day, women give Huasheng as gifts, as scholars climb to elevations to compose poems. This kingfisher comb was made in the 19th Century, Qing Dynasty. The only comb I have ever seen of this quality was in 2009.

Thank you Frances and Terry for sharing these with us.


For more scholarly research, please examine our Resource Library and these books:

The Comb: Its History and Development

Le Peigne Dans Le Monde

Combs and Hair Accessories

Jen Cruse: The Butterfly Motif

The butterfly, the short-lived ethereal beauty of gardens and countryside, has been a favourite motif adorning hair jewellery for at least the past 250 years and particularly popular through the 19th and early 20th centuries. Its delicate form is found on combs and hairpins from many countries around the world, and even featured on the celebrated comb attributed to one of the passengers on the fated Titanic before it sank in 1912. In Christian art, the butterfly symbolises the resurrected human soul. One Oriental source describes it as a sign of conjugal felicity – the Chinese Cupid – while another describes the butterfly, coupled with the chrysanthemum, as portraying beauty in old age. For the Maori peoples it represented the soul; for the Greeks, immortality; yet for the Japanese it indicated a vain woman or a fickle lover. Always popular in England, butterflies were a favourite in the 1870s during the vogue for insect motifs in jewellery and later favoured by the Art Nouveau and Art Deco artists and designers.

Here are a few examples:

Butterfly cased comb in celluloid. British or French, c. 1920s – 1930s.

Butterfly on translucent horn, China, mid-20th century.

Cut steel butterfly with horn tines. English, mid to late 19th Century.

Polished bone butterfly hairpin. Bali, 1950s to 1980s.

Celluloid butterfly comb and two hairpins. USA, c.1910-1920s.

Buffalo horn with inlaid mother-of-pearl butterfly. Indonesia, mid to late 20th Century.


For more scholarly research, please examine our Resource Library and

The Comb: Its History and Development

Edwardian Hair Pins

In the late 19th Century, blonde tortoiseshell hair pins with jewels wrapped around them were especially popular. Sotheby’s is selling a set of three with the twisted-rope design. They are decorated with garnet carbuncles, separated by rose diamonds. Price estimate: 4,000 GBP, and we’ll know the price realized on St. Patrick’s Day. The value of a set is almost always higher than that of an individual piece.

For those of us who do not have an extra $8000 hanging around to buy three Edwardian hair pins, Ruby lane is selling a small one with diamonds for $750.

Two Tiaras

This agate, cameo, and gold tiara is part of a complete parure, c. 1840. The tiara has a graduated series of five pinkish brown and brownish gray agate cameos, each sculpted in high relief. They depict profiles of various figures. Cameos with different colored accessories are the most valued. These have pinkish brown agate accessories, including feathers, jewelry and wreaths. They reside within a sculpted gold scroll.

Are we really supposed to resist this?

Edwardian, pearl and diamond tiara, c. 1900.

Carlo and Arthur Guiliano Comb

This brooch comes with a fitted tortoiseshell comb and a brooch pin, so the wearer can choose which kind of jewelry she wants to wear. Signed C & AG. C. 1895. The ornament consists of diamonds, enamel, a moonstone, and a pearl.

In 1874, the father Carlo opened a retail shop, Carlo and Arthur Giuliano. By this time, Egyptian Revival jewelry had gone out of fashion. Renaissance was in. As the Giuilianos were a master artists, they didn’t copy designs. Instead, they interpreted French 17th Century enamelwork to suit late-19th century tastes.

This piece is selling at Sotheby’s for an estimated value of $15,000 to $20,000.

Some Lovely Things on Ebay

A one-of-a-kind killer, fabulous, over-the-top Victorian Algerian with crystals and a satin finish gold dore mount sold for $483.90 on June 25 to jcollect, a serious and wonderful collector. Congrats, Jo. You may refer to auction #120273363617.

A classic shell comb with an elaborately textured 14K gold mount sold for $350 to kundrynyc on June 22. You may refer to auction #220245861658.

A beautiful garnet tiara hinged to a tortoiseshell hair pin did not sell for the seller’s asking price of $325 on May 30. You may refer to auction #160243735428.

However, a similar piece did sell for $259.50 on June 23. You may refer to auction #220247128220.

This Duhume American Sterling silver engraved comb is being offered at $399. No one bought it. One offer seems pending. You may refer to auction #270242886093.

I might as well just die now, I can’t afford it :-)

From Michelle Rowan’s website, “Fine quality carved tortoiseshell comb, featuring bacchante heads in profile, circa 1880.The cameos are carved in high-relief and set to a background of floral motifs and stylised sea-creatures. The comb measures 13 cm by 13 cm [ 5 inches by 5 inches] and is in immaculate condition.” I’m basically so emotional now I can’t even write my own copy. Michelle is a cameo specialist, so when she chooses a cameo, it’s  always  beautiful. Oh price? Little detail. 1500 UKP, $3001.64.