Tuesday, December 18, 2018

DAY 35: Gift of the Magi

Christmas hair comb set with green and red rhinestones

Gilded Age women had a lot of hair. Some grew it long from birth and never cut it, even when it reached their feet. Others, less Rapunzel-like, purchased "switches" or "rats" made of human hair to supplement the contours of their 'dos. Big hair was fashionable. But to look good, it required certain luxuries--a lady's maid trained to style long hair in elaborate and attractive ways; and hair combs to hold it in place.

Jennie Churchill had dark hair with a great deal of curl; in several pictures, she appears to have it pinned close to the crown of her head with a comb--as she does at right. I'm not going to embark, here, on a treatise on Victorian hair styles. I'm simply going to to show you some combs.

These were a great way to scatter jewels around your head, which would flash in gaslight or candlelight. They could complement a special outfit or occasion; but in the day-to-day, they could often be simply functional. Here are several examples from the mid- to late-nineteenth century. 

A pair of metal (platinum?) combs set with a pear-cut sapphire in the middle, a single round ruby, four emeralds,
and a swag of flowers and leaves set with old cut diamonds.

An "arabesque" style comb showing a Moorish influence--made of pierce and engraved gilt.
The hinged comb is carved from horn.
A tiara-shaped hair ornament set with nine emeralds in square, triangular and rectangular cuts; four diamonds
at terminal points

I suspect Jennie would have like this turqoise-set comb of a serpent; when you read the novel, you'll know why.

And because diamonds are forever, even if hair is not--silver over rose gold, this comb
is also detachable from its crown-shaped setting of 105 old mine-cut diamonds, which can be used
separately as a brooch. Dates from about 1880, likely British or French.

For more images from THAT CHURCHILL WOMAN, visit the  Pinterest board behind the novel. 

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