Category Archives: Jen Cruse

Jen Cruse: Mongolian Hair Ornaments From Our Community

Written by Jen Cruse, featuring the collections of Gina Hellweger and The Creative Museum. Mongol women traditionally wore their thick black hair tied in long plaits falling forward onto their shoulders, placing slightly curved silver combs flat on the top of the head. On festive and celebratory occasions, however, distinctive and colourful costumes were offset…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: The Fleur-de-Lys Motif

By Jen Cruse: The fleur-de-lys (often spelt “lis”) motif is frequently encountered on ornamental haircombs, either as part of the overall decorative heading or as an applied embellishment. It is said to represent three central petals of the lily, a flowering plant of the genus iris. The initial conclusion may be that combs depicting this…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

Jen Cruse: Large Tortoiseshell High Backcomb

This beautifully carved tortoiseshell comb is one of only three known to me. Two are in my collection and the third is in the collection of the Museum of London. Each comb varies slightly in format and also condition, and the carving techniques demonstrate the exceptional skill of the combmaker. The decorative features of each…Continue Reading