Category Archives: Indonesian Hair Comb

The Hair Comb Market

Are many beautiful things for sale, each with their own story, that condense post into one subject is difficult. So I have buffet of things today. Just click the picture or link see more details about each item.

In Sotheby’s Unsold category:

On 6 December 2002, this Henri Vever gold, enamel, and horn hair comb was estimated at $8,000 to $12,000, but did not sell.


On 13 June 2000, this French gold, enamel, and diamond Eugenie comb, c. 1870, was estimated between 6,000 to 8,000 GBP, but also did not sell.


Sotheby’s Upcoming Auction:

Up for auction on 14 November 2014 is brass Alexander Calder hair pin, c. 1940 (Calder Foundation Archive number: A16974). Estimate $50,000 – $70,000. To me, this comb looks like a female body wired into a frame. The estimate is consistent with the Calder market, and the interested to know what it fetches.


Will it appreciate in value, as did Calder’s silver “Figa” hair comb?

“Figa” in Slavic and Turkish cultures is hand gesture made to represent male or female sexual organs. The first and second fingers wrap the thumb. It could in response to money request or plea for physical labor. In Ancient Rome, the gesture was ward off evil spirits.

Calder gifted it artist Frances J. Whitney, c. 1948 (Calder Foundation Archive number: A22629). It could just see her wearing it with a geometrically cut black dress to charity ball, with no one else knowing what it meant but her.

On 15 November 2006, it purchased from Whitney estate for $57,000. On 14 November 2013, that buyer sold for 137,000.


That Live Auctioneers, another comb caught my attention. It is Russian, c. 1908-1917, silver, and made Fabergé work master Anders Michelson (marked AM). The comb has eight tortoiseshell prongs and a beautiful hinge that fits over to entire top. Michelson used niello, black mixture of copper, silver, and lead sulphides, to inlay the dogs and floral pattern on tiara. The auction starts on 13 November 2014, and the opening bid is €300.


Michael Backman Gallery

Michael Backman Ltd. this selling pair of gold and at gilded silver-filigree dragon hair pins from China’s Qianlong Period (1735-1796). They have dragon heads, each, which have turquoise cabochon. Openwork hair ornaments were known as “tongzan” and were worn from Ming Dynasty onwards.


Also on sale this comb from Solomon Islands. It is faa, or man’s woven comb from the Kwaio People, Malaita, Solomon Islands. Woven from yellow-orchid and coconut-palm-frond fibres, the comb was dyed with that geru root. Its teeth are made of fern wood.


The last lot to feature from Michael Backman is jaw-dropping collection of 38 Indonesian gold ornaments, c. 800 AD. It is largest set of gold regalia ever collected for statue in Central Java, Indonesia. Their script on chest cord translates as “‘The weight of pailut with the diadem: 2 suvarṇa, 1 māṣa, 2 kupaṅ’”


Some Lovely Things on E-Bay

Never dismiss E-Bay. A Māori Paikea comb with ivory patina to-die-for was listed by God-Save-Whom for $9.95 with no reserve. The description was “Possibly African.”

It is There are 6 bids on it, including 2 experienced bidders. It’s real tortoiseshell. As printing, are 3 days and 11 hours this auction.

It is Their seller thinks French. It could French or Edwardian English because jewelers in both countries made these types of pins. The auction has 4 days to go.

Of authors, Miriam Slater, as selling this It is rare, it is real, and I’d get my hands on it if I could.

Choosing one amongst many beautiful things is difficult. Mustn’t we just have them all.


To have fun researching more items like these please consult our Resource Library and these books:

alibaba fullmetal alchemist pocket watch exact replica andrew at with fast delivery day date gold rolex datejust replica under 149 dollar how to recognise cheap fake designer watches china how to tell real or speedmaster just ewing gold aaa fake watches chronometers premium quality rolex copies cheap review rwi top grade replica tag heuer by designer handbags less

Gold Jewellery of the Indonesian Archipelago

Calder Jewelry

Ethnic Jewellery and Adornment

Combs at the Musée du Quai Branly

The Musée du Quai Branly is as much a work of architecture as it is a museum that houses a collection of 300,000 artifacts from Africa and Oceania. Jean Nouvel designed four structures with 30 multicolored, protruding cubes. Each cube contains an exhibition.

They have a wonderful collection of combs and photographs that show how they were worn.

For example, the Buang are a Papuan people of the Morobe district of North-East New Guinea. In 1954, François Girard took this photo of a Buang man wearing a comb at the Mission de Françoise Girard during a feast.

The Buang carved and engraved bamboo combs, such as this one, which is similar to the one worn in the photograph.

Artisans of the Kuy people in Cambodia were known for their textile-weaving skills. They wove ikat, an elaborate silk fabric for women’s sampot hol-skirts, and pidans, which were wall hangings used for ceremonial decoration. This wood comb, c. 1870, was made for weaving. It is framed with a dragon and has zoomorphic and floral motifs. The comb itself is bamboo. The slats are cut separately and stretched by a linen thread.

This pidan resides in the Honolulu Museum. The whole textile chronicles Prince Siddhartha (the future Buddah). He leaves the family palace, accompanied by the gods Indra and Brahma. Then he cuts off his hair, meditates under the bodhi tree, and attains Enlightenment.

This striking comb with five long teeth, an engraved bamboo top, and two blue beads looks like a dancer. It comes from Seram Island, the largest island of Maluku Province, Indonesia. The comb dates from the late 19th to the early 20th Centuries and was donated by Jean-Paul and Monique Barbier-Mueller. It was probably made for a man.

This is an aigrette on top of carved bamboo. In the Telei language of Bougainville, Papua New Guinea, it is called a kutopagu. Between the comb and feather is possum fur. The two pieces of the comb itself are made from bamboo root, and are connected with plant fibers. This is a male adornment typical of the Southern region of Bougainville with carved motifs the color of lianas: woody, climbing vines that twine around trees and are plentiful in rain forests. According to Emilus Karako, these ornaments are no longer made.


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

Ethnic Jewellery and Adornment

Gold Jewellery of the Indonesian Archipelago

Pictorial Cambodian Textiles: Traditional Celebratory Hangings

Learning from the Creative Museum and Ethnic Jewellery and Adornment

In quotes are comments from Ethnic Jewellery and Adornment by Truus Daalder. Reference numbers are in italics and specified at the bottom. The photographs and other writing come from the collection and scholarship of The Creative Museum. I thought it would be interesting to combine them. They crossed paths in China, Indonesia, and Southeast Asia.


“It is in the hairstyles and head decorations that perhaps the greatest variety of shapes exist, and the Southern Chinese minorities are possibly second only to the Mongolians in the exuberance of their headwear, particularly during festivals. Girls preserve hair lost in combing to compose extra hairpieces to incorporate into elaborate coiffures.” (1)

The dots and circles on the bone tines of this comb from The Creative Museum were made using pyrography, a technique where decorations are burned into wood or bone using a heated object. It also has cotton threads, black and white glass beads and a huge red pom pom in the middle. Red is the color of good fortune in China. The comb belongs to the Yao people.

“In pre-historic times, most of present-day Indonesia was attached to mainland Southeast Asia… However, when the ice melted after the last Ice Age, about 10,000 years ago, low-lying land was covered by sea, and Indonesia turned into a country of thousands of islands… Over time, waves of migrants came to the Indonesian islands, particularly from mainland Southeast Asia.” (2)

The dugout-canoe shape of this striking, lacquered black-horn comb from the Creative Museum evokes the boat that brought ancestors from the south-east Asiatic continent to the Indonesian archipelago. It was made c. 1970.

“The mainland of Southeast Asia is the meeting place of many borders and many ethnic groups. Burma, Thailand, Laos, and Vietnam share many of their borders with each other, and often share ethnic groups, as well.” (3)

Among the reasons for this are

  • During the Ming Dynasty, the Han Chinese pushed minority groups south, and many settled in Southeast Asia
  • Barbarian invasions from the North and Northwest pushed some Tai language speakers to Burma, Laos, and Thailand
  • In the 19th century, kingdoms, such as the Khmer in Cambodia, gained and lost power, and there was British and French colonial expansion. Both factors changed the borders within Southeast Asia
  • In 1949, minority groups who fought Communism fled China when Mao won, and fled Laos in 1975, when the Communists took over there
  • Borders were of little concern to ethnic groups who practiced slash-and-burn agriculture (4)

The pyramid-shaped hair pins from The Creative Museum are worn by Red Taï and Hmong women in Laos. Their hairstyles often took more than one pin to keep them in place.

Made in the early 20th Century, the long one has a pyramid shape and ornate filigree decorations. It is hollow with a lid and used as a tobacco container, a marriage between beauty and function. The shorter one is wood wrapped in silver.

“The last dynasty before a period of instability and finally the victory of Communism in 1949 was the Manchu Qing Dynasty, consisting of Manchurian invaders from the North, which ruled from 1644 – 1911… Coral, jade, and pearls were popular, and during the Qing Dynasty there was also a revival of kingfisher feather jewellery. This was so popular that the kingfisher bird with the brightest blue feathers was hunted to extinction” (5)

Showcasing this history, the last piece I will feature is The Creative Museum’s stunning Manchu hairpin. It has three dimensions. The first layer is made of branch coral, amber, jadeite, and kingfisher feathers. The second layer is a circle of small coral beads, strung in small heart shapes. The third has a kingfisher decoration at the center. The piece is shaped to form a flower and bring good luck to the wearer.


For more scholarly research, please see the exhibits and publications of The Creative Museum. To order a copy of Chinese and Japanese Hair Ornaments, please write to Payment can be made through Paypal.

Also, every collector must have

Ethnic Jewellery and Adornment

(1) Ethnic Jewellery and Adornment, by Truus Daalder, page 216
(2) Ethnic Jewellery and Adornment, by Truus Daalder, page 171
(3) Ethnic Jewellery and Adornment, by Truus Daalder, page 209
(4) Ethnic Jewellery and Adornment, by Truus Daalder, page 209
(5) Ethnic Jewellery and Adornment, by Truus Daalder, page 218

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

Truus Daalder: Comb from Tanimbar, Maluku Province of Indonesia

In my book Ethnic Jewellery and Adornment (Ethnic Art Press and Macmillan, 2009), I described and illustrated (p. 170) a very rare comb from Tanimbar, situated in the east of Indonesia, in the southern Moluccas (Maluku). I was unable to show there the only drawing of a person actually wearing the comb, which together with another drawing and further material was found for me by a very helpful Dutch librarian of the World Museum in Rotterdam, who examined a number of rare and old books for the purpose.

One aim of this article is now to publish the two drawings mentioned, together with some information contained in the text of these books.

Not many good and genuine examples of this type of comb seem to exist. Perhaps they were always rare, for they were only to be worn by ‘heroes’ (waduwan) according to a description in a Dutch book by J.G.F. Riedel, published in 1886 by Nijhoff in The Hague, De sluik- en kroesharige rassen tusschen Selebes en Papua, of which the title translates as “The Straight- and Curly-haired Races between Celebes and Papua.” The illustration on page 309 of Riedel’s book (shown below, and also reproduced in Suzanne Greub’s Expressions of Belief, 1988) provides a drawing of several gold ornaments from the region, a bamboo comb worn by young men (number 10), and an example of our type of comb (number 12), here called suar taran wulu. It shows some of the ornamentation that was in this case attached to the comb. The comb was worn together with a neck ornament (number 11) called wangap. Number 13 shows a goats’ hair ornament also worn by the waduwan, tied around the leg below the knee.

The other illustration found, of an actual wearer of the comb in full regalia, and shown below, was discovered in a German book published in Berlin in 1896 by A. Jacobsen, “Reise in die Inselwelt des Banda-Meeres,” which can be translated as “Travel in the Island World of the Banda Sea.”

This shows a warrior decked out for fighting. The tines of the comb were inserted horizontally into the hair at the back. The volume of the wearer’s hair was enlarged by artificial padding and by adding more actual human hair. The warrior’s hair may also have been strengthened by chalk (Riedel, p. 292). The comb was then augmented with further embellishment by the use of a prow-shaped insertion of light wood decorated with feathers or flags. Text under the drawing explains that the hair-do as shown in the drawing is ‘too low’.

Jacobsen had personally watched a dance during which the comb was worn. The drawing describes the warrior as a resident of ‘Timor-laut’. Rita Wassing-Visser, from the Nusantara Museum in Delft, states in Sieraden en Lichaamsversiering uit Indonesië (1984) that the comb is called suar sair or flag comb (p. 129), while Suzanne Greub, in Expressions of Belief, featuring masterpieces in the Rotterdam Museum, gives the name yole to a similar comb collected in the Babar Islands, which lie between Timor and the Moluccas (p. 234). Greub reproduces the illustration from Riedel, but appears to be unaware of the drawing from the book by Jacobsen.

Obviously the comb was used in a number of island groups, under different names and with different kinds of decoration. Wassing-Visser calls the accompanying necklace of large cowrie shells wangpar, and states that a second necklace often worn with the comb, indar-lele, was usually made from swordfish vertebrae or sawn buffalo bones.

Jacobsen (p. 217) explains that the carved inlay on the comb consists of ivory, and this is stated about a number of examples. The Moluccas certainly imported ivory and attached great value to it, but our example and several others in illustrations appear to have used bone for the inlaid and carved sections.

Not a single photograph seems to exist showing the comb as worn. Several similar combs in the collections of the World Museum are described as having been damaged or gnawed by rodents, consistent with the combs having come from graves. This suggests that in many cases they may have been buried with their owner.

Our example was collected by Dutch people in the 1970s, in the village of Alusikarwain in Tanimbar Selatan, or South Tanimbar, and clearly dates from the nineteenth century. It was said to have been used in dance ceremonies called Tabar Lla or Ngabar Lla. It is a pity that the nineteenth century travellers either had no camera or that their photographed material did not survive tropical conditions, and apparently later visitors no longer saw the combs used in dances.



Greub, Suzanne (ed.) 1988. Expressions of Belief: Masterpieces of African, Oceanic and Indonesian Art from the Museum voor Volkenkunde, Rotterdam. New York: Rizzoli International.

Jacobsen, A. 1896. Reise in die Inselwelt des Banda-Meeres. Berlin.

Riedel, J.G.F. 1886. De sluik- en kroesharige rassen tusschen Selebes en Papua. The Hague: Nijhoff.

Wassing-Visser, Rita. 1984. Sieraden en Lichaamsversiering uit Indonesië. Delft: Volkenkundig Museum Nusantara.


Please read an interview with Truus Daalder on the blog, Pierre Nachbaur Art. Ms. Daalder is the author of

Ethnic Jewellery and Adornment

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.

The gallery’s description: “This gorgeous comb from the lesser Sunda islands is carved from two different mediums, turtle shell and buffalo horn and is pinned together with old bronze or brass pegs. The top of the comb made from turtle shell is beautifully decorated with heart shaped faces and archaic open form iconography that has been influenced by the ancient Dong-Son culture. The bottom portion created from buffalo horn elegantly fans out with six intact tines. The natural variation of colors in these unique mediums over time have become enhanced through excessive handling. There is a slight loss to the right tip but in otherwise excellent condition for its age.”

Meanwhile at Sotheby’s, a tortoiseshell parure from 19th-Century England sold for $46,875 on Dec. 8, 2011. The whole set featured cameos of Greek figures and was probably made during the Greek Revival period in Victorian England, c. 1860-1880. Interest in Greek and Etruscan antiquities soared as archaeological discoveries were made, and an architectural trend quickly spread into jewelry. You can see a ribboned diadem on the central cameo figure of the comb, which was reminiscent of Alexander the Great’s generals.

And from The Creative Museum comes this beautiful tortoiseshell cameo comb:

Tortoiseshell combs made at the same time and influenced by ancient cultures rendered two completely different designs. Amazing.


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

Ethnic Jewellery and Adornment

Power and Gold: African, Asian & Oceanic Art

Victorian Jewelry: Unexplored Treasures

Sulawesi Indonesia Art: Carved Bird Comb

This prestigious ceremonial buffalo-horn comb is being listed on ebay for $485 or best offer. It’s spirit touched me. In African combs, birds are fertility symbols. Here we have a similar theme of two birds facing each other.

Sulawesi is one of the Greater Sunda Islands of Indonesia. Along with Sumatra, Java, Borneo, and the Moluku Islands, they form the Malay archipelago. Human remains have been found on Sulawesi as far back as 30,000 BC. In the 13th Century, trade routes opened, which gave the native population access to iron and altered the culture. Portuguese sailors discovered it in 1525. Here is a picture from the 1870s, showing the “histoire danseuses padjog” of Sulawesi with stunning costume and hair ornamentation.


For further scholarly research, please examine

The Keiko Kusakabe Collection: Textiles from Sulawesi in Indonesia: Geneaology of Sacred Cloths

Calling Back the Spirit: Music, Dance, and Cultural Politics in Lowland South Sulawesi

There is a completeness to this 2500-comb collection, as it spans the whole world and time. Most individual collections specialize. This museum brings together the love of many in a dazzling display of hair comb art. The pictures are a community unto themselves.

The museum founders state, “There is nowhere you can see this collection, since it is private. As the owners want to share its resources with everyone, CREATIVE MUSEUM will do its best to offer all the services you could find in a museum: a temporary exhibition with a special theme, a view of the permanent collection, background information and more: expertise.”

Here are a few comparisons and pictures. From the museum:

I believe this is my picture of the same comb in 2004.

Here is a Manchurian hairpin from the collection.

This is my Manchu piece.

And here are just three pictures, which reveal the eye of the collective mastery that brings this project to life. The still-life photography is superb.

An African bird.

A Bonaz Mantilla comb.

A Chinese diadem.

Tanimbar Whale Bone Comb

Sometimes tribal artists can grab your eyes to look at and understand their ancient worlds. This whale-bone comb from the Tanimbar Islands in the Maluku Province of Indonesia dates back to the 1900s, as the patina shows. The head figure on top looks like a god resting on the pedestal of the comb, although I cannot be sure. I just liked it, so I made a low-ball offer. It was accepted, and I bought it. Sometimes, I see things in tribal art. I buy on instinct.