comb (hair ornaments)


This ornamental comb made from silver and enamelled in turquoise, blue and lilac was worn as a woman's hair ornament. The crest is formed of floral and foliage design, surmounted with five projecting emblems that each have a symbolic meaning. The melon represents fertility, the hand with thumb touching forefinger symbolises perfection or enlightenment, the halberd or ji is an auspicious symbol, the guandao represents victory over evil and the two interlocking cash designs represent wealth. It was made in the 19th century in China.

The comb was donated to the Museum by Dr Hildburgh (1876-1955) who was a collector, scientist and sportsman. He was born into an immigrant family in New York in 1876 and died in 1955. Hildburgh was an avid traveller (visiting Asia, Europe and the Middle East) and collector of amulets with interests in archaeology and medieval artefacts. He also became an international athlete, excelling in swimming and figure skating. He recorded information gleaned from dealers as well as literary references and his own opinions in his meticulous notebooks, dating from 1902.

Collection Information

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