comb (hair ornaments)

17.8.61/6

These combs (17.8.61/3, 17.8.61/6 and 3533ii), were made in the nineteenth century from the shells of Hawksbill sea turtles--now endangered--not the shells of smaller land tortoises. The deep brown colour and iridescence of the Hawksbill shell made it a valuable raw material for beauty products during the period. Softened, bent and carved into combs, these are oriented toward fashion rather than to practical grooming equipment. The combs would be bound into the hair, becoming fascinators or objects of curiosity and beauty to draw comment and admiration. Combs of tortoiseshell were particularly popular in Spain, South America and Central America, where the contrast between the bright amber of the tortoiseshell and the black hair of the women who live in these regions was considered particularly attractive.

Collection Information

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