Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Collection: Jewelry for the Hair

Here's another interesting collection: Hair combs, peinetas, kanzashi and other ornaments for the well-coifed lady.  Hair combs and ornaments can range from the mundane, every-day comb to elaborate works of art with precious jewels and outlandish designs.

Hair Combs

While hair combs are ostensibly used to keep a lady's hair in place, they needn't be boring. With the inclusion of rhinestones, silver and jewels, these little necessities become little works of art.
Rhinestone studded and silver decorated hair combs.
Pearlized Celluloid Hair Comb with Rhinestones ($35)
 Peinetas and Mantillas

Detail of a faux-tortoise shell celluloid peineta.
One of my favorite genre of hair jewelry is the peineta, that marvelous comb with intricate tall designs that is traditionally worn under a mantilla or other lace that drapes over the head and shoulders. Peinetas, or mantilla combs, are Spanish in origin, dating back to the 15th century. These are part of the traditional dress of ladies in all Spanish speaking countries, from Old World Spain to New World Chile and Mexico and the former Spanish colony the Philippines. Mantilla and peineta are primarily used during special occasions, such as weddings, baptisms and funerals, Holy Week mass and processions, along with  operas, bullfights and traditional performances of flamenco music.

L: Victorian lady with peineta in her hair; R: Ladies in mantilla during a Holy Week procession.
Mantilla can be dramatic, regal or dreamy.
The early peinetas were made out of tortoise shell, mother-of-pearl and even ivory. Today plastics, such as celluloid and acrylic, have replaced these early material.

Various celluloid faux-tortoise peineta. The one on the right is $45.
Early 1900s large art nouveau style celluloid faux-tortoise shell mantilla comb or peineta ($75)
Peinetas and hair combs made from silver are a special category, being as much a decorative art piece as they are functional jewelry.

Beautifully hand chased silver comb or peineta ($225)
Sterling peineta by Taxco Taller Borda silversmith Gabriel Flores ($165)
A great way to display these hair combs is in a frame or shadowbox. They can also be shown off by standing them on a plinth or pedestal. Their intricate designs and wonderful colors a so beautiful to look at, so why hide them in a drawer or tucked away in the back of a collection case.


Kanzashi is a traditional hair ornament that was worn by Japanese women in the Edo and Meiji Periods, i.e., 17th through 19th centuries. A variety of styles developed, from sticks to combs to heavily ornamented pieces of hair jewelry. These kanzashi were part of the high coiffured hairstyles common at the time and were worn mainly by brides and geisha. In more recent times, the well-dressed Japanese business lady has adapted the kanzashi as an ornament to add elegance to their rather staid business suits.

Beautiful silver, coral and jade kanzashi with dangling birra birra (sorry - sold)
Antique seed pearl, jade, tortoise shell and enamel kanzashi (sorry - sold)
Kanzashi are fabricated from a wide range of materials such as lacquered wood, precious metal, ivory, tortoiseshell and silk. 20th century plastic kanzashi are quite common, with early bakelite and celluloid kanzashi being extremely collectible.

Beautiful trembling flower kanzashi with petals and leaves made of genuine tortoise shell ($295)
Carved ivory willow tree kanzashi hair pick ($95)
These long, slender ornaments can be beautifully displayed in frames, standing in a beautiful flower frog or as part of an ikebana flower arrangement.


We posted an article on kanzashi a while back on this blog. Another site with nice photos of kanzashi is this blog post by That Bow. Also, for an excellent discussion and photos of all variety of hair decorations check out these eBay guides.

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