Category Archives: Victorian Hair Comb

Victorian Hair Pins

Whether the hairstyle was divided into three or more parts, some short, others long; or, the hair was complexly braided at the back, Victorian women adorned their chignons with tortoiseshell combs and pins.

On top of the pins were fantastic gold creations of griffins with ruby eyes, silver so delicately woven it looked like lace, and diamonds. Sometimes the tortoiseshell was carved into flowers and intricate designs, allowing the different colors of the natural material to shade the art like a painter would use his or her brush. Other times, they were capped with gold and silver crowns.

This pin hails from the Metropolitan Museum of Art. Two carved gold rings on top of a cap are set with diamonds, a sapphire and a ruby.

Carved gold tops decorate the fleur-de-lis shape of this dark tortoiseshell hair pin.

Just as silver is delicately woven into lace with diamond dots in this hair pin,

so The Creative Museum‘s hair pin has a circular foliage-like silver design.

More complex caps could set off jewels, such as in this hair pin with aquamarines

and these griffins with ruby eyes.

Or, the setting could be invisible to set off a delicate spray of pearls.

Any way you look at them, jeweled Victorian tortoiseshell hair pins were made in an astonishing array of variations.

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If you would like to buy an antique Victorian hair pin, I am confident in recommending these active E-Bay listings:

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


Jewellery in the Age of Queen Victoria

The Comb: Its History and Development

Pre-Raphaelites: Victorian Art and Design

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,…Continue Reading

Tortoiseshell Hair Combs from Different Worlds

The Bruce Frank Primitive Art Gallery has a beautiful 19th-Century tortoiseshell- and buffalo-horn comb for sale. Price on request. If you don’t have a tribal comb, have no idea of how to buy one correctly, but would like a top-class piece, I have no problem putting my name on a recommendation to buy this one.…Continue Reading

BarbaraAnne’s Hair Comb Buying Guide

Here are my picks from around the web. This masterpiece was brought to my attention by The Creative Museum. Merci, Monsieur Touzinaud. The most magnificent cameos are those where the artist gives the natural coloration in the stone a purpose in his carved figure. In these stunning examples, the color defines flowers in the women’s…Continue Reading

Jen Cruse: Garnets Adorning Hair Combs in the 19th Century

Garnets are semi-precious gemstones of the silicate (quartz) group of minerals, found in metamorphic rock in a variety of colours. They have been known since the Bronze Age not only as gemstones but also for their abrasive qualities. The gemstone variety has a rich transparent lustre while opaque garnets are used to this day as…Continue Reading

Jen Cruse: Mid-19th Century Elegance: Hinged Comb with Bejeweled Heading

This gilt brass comb has a hinged decorative heading composed of pink, yellow and white golds and set with small garnets, emeralds and turquoises. The intricate crafting of the heading depicts leaves and flowers springing from two vases, placed on either side of a framed central malachite cabochon. The backward leaning teeth allow a tiara…Continue Reading

Jen Cruse: Tortoiseshell versus Horn

For much of the nineteenth century, tortoiseshell was a luxury material that commanded high prices, whereas horn was a readily available material and inexpensive by comparison. By around 1830, the horn craftsmen found a method of clarifying and staining horn in imitation of tortoiseshell and, over succeeding decades, made combs, hairpins and other small items…Continue Reading