Category Archives: Russian 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

Comb at the Metropolitan Museum of Art

The description the museum gives is

  • Date: 1700 – 1938
  • Culture: American or European
  • Medium: Bone.

In 1705, Tsar Peter the Great wanted to rid Russia of its technological backwardness and import Western style and ideas. He looked to France and founded St. Petersburg by the Neva River, east of the Gulf of Finland because he understood the strategic importance of the Baltic Sea. Trade became plentiful. This established St. Petersburg as more a part of Europe than the rest of Russia.

This comb looks like it was hand carved from clarified horn that came from a horse’s hoof, a popular material in Germany.

The comb was probably made in the 19th Century, both stylistically (Russian Coat of Arms) and by this inscription: C.I.38.23.476. In Russian, C.I. means I.D. Together with the number, it is most probably a proof of the comb’s presence in some sort of Russian museum or collection.

It is very difficult to believe this comb could have been made in America, or after 1917.

I don’t understand the Metropolitan Museum’s description. I will ask them. Comments welcome.


For more scholarly research, please examine our Resource Library and

Jewels of the Romanovs: Family & Court

The Comb: Its History and Development

Russian Elegance: Country & City Fashion from the 15th to the Early 20th Century

Faberge Hair Pins on E-Bay

This is an exquisite set of three Faberge 18K gold, diamond and tortoiseshell hair pins. The geometric mesh is a distinctly Russian design. The combs also have an Imperial-style border and come in their original box. They are selling for $12,000.

Sewn into the original box are the gold letters of Faberge. The crest over them has the double-headed eagle with a crown in the middle of it. As we learned from the ivory liturgical comb commemorating Sophia Paleologue, this is the mark of the Tsar, which means that these combs were made for the Royal Family.

If you look at the maker’s marks in the back of the larger gold hair pin, you will see Faberge’s name, and what I believe is ES, the mark of work master Eduard W. Shramm, who came to St. Petersburg from Germany and made cigarette cases and other small jeweled pieces.

This is a picture of the original Faberge store on 24 Bolshaya Morskaya in St. Petersburg, ca. 1910.


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

Faberge: Imperial Jeweler

The Comb: Its History and Development

Le Peigne Dans Le Monde

The Real Sophia, wife of Ivan the Great, on a Russian Orthodox Comb

In 1237, Genghis’s grandson Batu-Khan invaded Kievan Rus and burned all its cities to the ground. Ivan III Vasilyevich — the Great (1440-1505) defeated the Mongols and took the land back. He also rebuilt the Kremlin, which was then a fortress of churches and palaces, and established The Grand Duchy of Moscow, becoming the first Tsar.

He married Sophia Paleologue in 1472, niece of the last Byzantine Emperor at the suggestion of Pope Paul II. The Pope thought this marriage would allow him to consolidate the Roman and Eastern Orthodox faiths under his authority after Constantinople fell to the Ottoman Turks in 1453.

Forensic reconstruction of Sophia done in 1994

But it didn’t happen. Sophia was shrewd, powerful, and loved her family’s Eastern Orthodox faith. She assimilated the elaborate ceremonies of Byzantine Christianity into Moscow’s court, including the double-headed eagle. A religious symbol in ancient Turkey, Byzantine culture placed a crown in the middle of the eagle’s two heads to symbolize the Emperor’s power over the East and West.


is a Russian ivory liturgical comb, c. 1680. It resides at the Hermitage Museum in St. Petersburg. The text reads “God is one, God is serenity.”

However, I believe the woman on each edge is a left- and right-side profile portrait of the REAL Sophia, not in a burial headdress, but in the tiara she wore while she lived. An oral historian could have described her to the comb’s maker. In the center is her historical legacy: the double-headed eagle with a crown, a national symbol of Russia to this day.


This research was done with the help of Vadim Zaliva.

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

Ivan III and the Unification of Russia
The Eagle Has Two Faces: Journeys Through Byzantine Europe


Russian Tortoiseshell Parure

This parure highlights hand-inlaid gold and silver on tortoiseshell. Each cameo has a complex floral pattern in a geometric frame. The balls on top of the comb show the influence of Napoleon’s Josephine. The cultural exchange between Russia and France occurred during the Napoleonic Wars. Educated Russians traveled to Europe and wanted to implement liberal political ideas in Russia. When Napoleon was defeated in 1815, Tzar Alexander I bought Josephine’s art collection. Indeed, the language of the Russian court was French. Nicholas I took over in 1825. The parure resides in the Hermitage, c. 1830 – 1850.

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

Jewels of the Romanovs: Family & Court

Jewels of the Tsars: The Romanovs and Imperial Russia

Tiaras – A History of Splendour

Ebay: Russian Comb by Faberge Workmaster Erik Kollin

A tortoiseshell comb with an 18K gold bar decorated with rose- and white-gold sculpted flowers is selling for $1650 on Ebay France. It comes in its original box, with the maker’s name. EK: Erik August Kollin, Fabergé’s Finnish head workmaster until 1886. The first Faberge egg is also attributed to him.


For more scholarly research, please examine

Faberge: Imperial Craftsman and His World

Faberge: The Forbes Collection.

Diamond and Aquamarine Tiara

Topped by a pear-shaped aquamarine, this tiara was owned by Princess Olga Valerianovna Paley. She was born Olga Karnovitsch on Dec. 2, 1865, married Erich Gerhard von Pistohlkors in 1884, had an affair with Grand Duke Paul Alexandrovich of Russia, married him without the Tsar’s approval, but then got his blessing and became a Princess. After her husband and son were killed by the Bolsheviks in 1920, she fled to Finland with her two daughters. She died in Paris on November 2, 1929. Being a woman, no matter what happened to her, she kept the tiara. It is signed Cartier Paris, Londres, New York, was made c. 1912, and sold for $76,000 at Sotheby’s on May 12, 2009.

More Faberge Brooches for the Hair

This silver brooch is a character in another Russian fairy tale. A knight tries to find the magic garden, wherein resides the water of life. He flies on winged horses. This horse is made of silver, white, and yellow gold. His wings are jeweled with white, blue, and pink diamonds.

One of the water kings of the Russian fable underworld, this dragon horse uses Faberge’s color palette of jewels: colored diamonds, paraiba tourmalines (they contain a bit of copper, are neon green or blue, and come from Paraiba, Brazil), and Padparadscha sapphires (they are orange).

Brooches for the Hair

Many times, a brooch had two fittings. One to enable the woman to wear it as a pin, and another to permit the brooch to be worn as a comb. I had a call from Geneva, Switzerland, today offering me access to the modern Faberge jewelry site. Breathtakingly designed brooches, which could easily accompany a bun. I asked the price of the seahorse and was told $250,000. LMAO. A little out of my price range, but gorgeous jewelry is gorgeous jewelry. Enjoy the poetry.

This first image is of the Firebird, an old Russian fairy tale that Stravinsky made into one of the most famous ballets in the repertoire. It has over 100 diamonds, highlighted with sapphires, rubies, amethysts, opals, and moonstones.

The next piece comes from another Russian fairy tale, The Crimson Rose, and is saturated with the finest pink-red rubies, offset with white and yellow diamonds.

Last is a magnificent seahorse, which recalls the Kingdom of the Blue Sea in the Russian Fable of Sadko. It is set with violet sapphires, yellow and violet diamonds, and wrapped in white-diamond seaweed.

Tlingit Comb

The Tlingit were a matrilineal society, who lived on the Southeastern Alaska Coast. Their religion was mostly Russian Orthodox. Tlingit Shamans wore combs and hairpins during ceremonies, as well as when they were not practicing tribal medicine. This wooden comb is polychrome, which means it is made with many colors, and it is decorated with spirit helpers and crest emblems. It sold at Sotheby’s for $146,500, and is 9 3/4″ tall.