Category Archives: Empire Comb

French Empire Comb on Ebay

Selling on ebay is a magnificent example of a French Empire comb from the Eugenie period, c. 1860. The brass gallery underneath the cameos is intricately inlaid. The 5 ox-blood coral cameos are superbly carved and surrounded by coral beads. The comb itself is shell. Excellent condition. Price: $7500 or best offer.

Another Eugenie comb sold at Sotheby’s for 3000 GBP on June 29, 2006. The ruby- and pearl-encrusted mount depicts a golden eagle fighting with a serpent. Napoleon I used the golden eagle as a symbol of his new French Empire.

Given that 2006 sale price, this dealer is betting that the market for Eugenie combs has gone up in 6 years. OK. But since the dealer knows what he’s selling, why list a Sotheby’s-level comb on E-bay in the first place?

Ebay: French Empire Comb

Ebay is Antiques Road Show Live. It can really get ridiculous sometimes, but I know a lot of people who have been watching this auction and wondering what the final price would be. It just sold for $876.98.

This is a French Empire Josephine-style comb, c. 1860, with beautiful large brass galleries and blue-and-white glass cameos. Excellent condition. I was having a debate with someone about whether or not the comb featured Greek Gods or Greek philosophers. My logic would dictate that Zeus is in the middle and Hera is at his left, but comments and opinions are welcome.

Some Lovely Things on Ebay

Many things are Buy It Now’s, where the dealer sets the price. They have the time, so it’s up to the buyer to either pay or negotiate. But here are some beautiful pieces on the market.

This Victorian tiara, c. 1860, is selling for $17,500. Diamonds and rubies, set in yellow 14K gold, highlight a single-flower medallion.

The dealer dates this Byzantine bone comb to 997 AD. It is original, decorated with linear ring and dot patterns, and held together by copper rivets. In 997 AD, Emperor Basil II won the Battle of Spercheios, on the shores of the Spercheios River in what is now central Greece. Can we imagine that this comb could have been used by an officer in that battle? Price: $600.

The price of this Japanese Meiji set is ridiculous at $2000, but it has everything: ivory, perfect condition, signed, imaginative… Fan medallions with gold maki-e paint show tree branches, flower beds, and a wheelbarrow in between carved flowers. The kogai stick matches superbly. It’s a Maltese Falcon.

Usually, I do not show silver-topped pieces over celluloid teeth, but I liked this one because it had an aigrette theme. Could be French instead of Birmingham Sterling. No markings were shown. The dealer wants $295 for it. Dreaming is nice.

This French Empire coral diadem has all its pieces in place. No brass comb, but coral was Empress Josephine’s favorite decoration. It’s an auction with one day to go. Starting price: $565. Given what French Empire pieces have been selling for, the dealer might sell this on a snipe bid.

This dealer has some breathtaking Chinese hairpins from the 1800s. Most are silver with enamel. One has kingfisher feathers, and another is made of glass beads. Prices: $148, $500, $330, $290, $290 again, and $268 respectively. One thing I love about the jade and pearl piece is the scrolled wire handles holding the stones. Alexander Calder used the same idea in his hair combs, albeit as a major sculptural feature rather than an engineering solution.


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

Chinese Aesthetics: The Ordering of Literature, the Arts, and the Universe in the Six Dynasties

Emerald Cities: Arts of Siam and Burma 1775-1950

Traditional Jewelry of India

Creative Museum: The Riches of the French Empire

Multimedia exhibitions on comb scholarship are the hallmark of the Creative Museum. “The Riches of the French Empire” shows us how fashion expressed the tragedy of revolution, themes of antiquity brought back a refined aesthetic, Napoleon recognized a business opportunity, and how men put women in charge of exhibiting their wealth. The comb was an essential fashion element in every development.

When the monarchy was overthrown, the voluminous hairstyles of Marie Antoinette disappeared. During the Reign of Terror (1793 – 1794), the guillotine took the lives of 16,594 people. In 1795, many women of noble descent cut off their hair to honor those condemned to death. Hairstyles had evocative names such as “The Sacrificed One,” and “The Victim.”

When we juxtapose this painting of Marie Antoinette from the Musée Antoine Lecuyer and this portrait of a woman after the Revolution (painter: Louis-Léopold Boilly, Musée du Louvre), we can see the traumatic effects of terror, when it follows a revolution.

However, the French admiration of antiquities shaped the Directory Era (1795 – 1799), and women grew their hair long again. Napoleon saw a business opportunity. Classical tendencies could give a boost to the trade in luxury goods. With this aim in mind, he proclaimed himself Emperor of France in 1804 and gave the job of making French fashion cross the bridge between pre- and post-Revolution to his wife, the Empress Josephine.

Neo-classic style became refined in French society. “Hair was parted at the side, swept back, and edged with kiss curls. A comb held up a high bun.” Josephine’s innovations gave birth to the French Empire comb. Its harmonious shape and splendid decoration make them museum pieces today.

Iconic women were essential to spreading this new fashion. Besides Josephine, there was her daughter Hortense de Beauharnais from her first marriage

Pauline Bonaparte, Napoleon’s sister,

and Madame Tallien, who wore the favorite diadem decoration, coral beads.

The Creative Museum has an outstanding collection of French Empire combs. Some have rubies, others have pearls. You’ll have to see the presentation to get all the information on them. But they are absolutely gorgeous.


For more scholarly research, please see the Creative Museum’s presentation The Riches of the French Empire.

Ebay: Empire Comb Prices

After the big September 23rd auction, there have been three French combs, c.1790 – 1850, which went for varying prices. The one that sold for $315 was a steal because the photograph did not show its complexity, nor my instinct that there were pearls dangling from the gilt circles decorated with lapis flowers. Here is the record of what sold, when, and for how much:

Coral Empire comb. Superb Condition. Sold: $1045.51, Oct. 5, 2011. Ebay France.

French Tiara comb with pearls and lapis jewels surrounded by seed pearls, c. 1800, Sold: $616.58, Oct. 5, 2011, Ebay France.

French Empire comb, lapis enamel flowers on gilded silver with dangling pearls, excellent condition, Sold: $315, Oct. 6, 2011,

That Ebay Auction: It was an Amethyst Empire Comb

The stones were amethysts. Shall we compare the comb in this Empire parure on a historical jewelry site to the one that went for $458 in that E-bay auction?

The comb correctly identified.

The amethyst Empire comb that went for $458 on Ebay.


For more scholarly research, please examine

Tiara by Diana Scarisbrick

Napoleon’s Letters to Josephine, 1796-1812

Catalogue Des Bijoux Du Musee Napoleon III (1862)

An Ebay Auction to Watch

I guess we’re going through an Empire comb phase. ;-) An Empire tiara top, hinged to either a shell or celluloid comb, is being auctioned on E-bay for 185 GBP at the moment. Does anyone think it looks like a married piece? The tiara is gorgeous. I see the 4 bidders on the board. They have feedback scores of 9, 15, 0, and 35. Someone is using a new account, or they are beginners. I will be interested to see if a new or experienced collector wins this.

UPDATE: Someone with a 342-feedback score outbid a newcomer with 9, and the married piece sold for $1500. The newcomer bid 14 times. The seller was absolutely honest. Unless the buyer already has the correct metal bottom, the seller won E-bay’s psychology game huge on this auction. I have to give the seller a “fair play.”

Ebay: An Auction to Watch

695 Euros and 5 days to go. 12 bidders. This is an Empire comb with 9 glass pearl beads atop a silver gilt tiara with flowers. The flowers have blue enamel centers and real-pearl petals. It has a rooster hallmark, and was made in Paris, c. 1798 – 1809. Provenance: “Yves Markezana – Taps French gold, silver, platinum from 1275 to the Present (ISBN 2-85101-103-0), page 89.”