Barbaraanne's Hair Comb Blog

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For the kanzashi collector, it is helpful to be able to discern between that which is decorative and pieces which are art. Auction prices often confirm the fact that the more art qualities a kanzashi has, the more collectable it becomes. Decorative hair combs (which are often quite beautiful in their own right), will not possess the depth of expression that is seen in more artistic pieces.  Art is distinguished by its originality, a sense of aesthetics and clear, purposeful expression. Often, within in it, one feels the presence of the maker – there is the sense that the piece has its own personality.

In the top comb set we see an overall decorative flower design, but on second glance we find a demonic figure hiding in the right side of the stick. The inclusion of ugliness with utmost beauty makes a statement about life that is beyond the decorative –the comb set has now become evocative and more poetic in mood.  In the second comb, the artist reaches beyond the decorative in this complex, beautifully executed design. On it are two separate landscapes, each one on golden, smooth lacquer fan shapes. Around these shapes, darker, roughly carved water forms flow. The movement of the water gives a feeling of excitement to the piece, especially when contrasted with the smooth texture of the fan shapes and the serene designs within them. The water even cuts into the fan forms, just as water does in real life, showing that the artist who made this gave a lot of thought to the play between the two opposing elements: the surging water and serene landscapes. When an artisan goes the extra mile to create something exceptional, the result is often that ever-elusive thing we call “art.”

Kanzashi – the difference between art and the decorative


This article on Google documents fake Lalique auctions on E-bay.

Beginning collectors, please remember: Lalique, LC Tiffany, Faberge and other great jewelers transformed jewelry with ideas: metamorphosis, symbolism, nature, modernism — the same ideas, which were inspiring Rodin, Redon, Rimbaud, and artists all across the Western World. Japonisme came from welding Edo Japanese art and European philosophy together.

That means a piece made by a visionary’s own hands is unique because it could have never been imagined before. It’s a very different article than combs of a type, such as the two-pronged Victorian hair comb, tortoiseshell back comb, or diamond opera comb. They are beautiful, too. Tiffany & Co. and Cartier produced exquisite representations of popular fashion. They are valid collector’s items, but they weren’t new. They make you admire, not think.

Here are the fakes. The article said someone paid $2000 for one of them.

And here is the real master. This Lalique comb with butterflies carved on tortoiseshell has 18K-gold beetles holding up a banister of citrines and diamonds. It is hinged to a horn comb and sold for $21,800 at Sothebys in 2009.

Here is a similar design on a horn back comb, except Lalique chose dragonflies, so he could drop their tails over the comb’s tines.

In this Symbolist masterpiece, Lalique elongates a woman’s arms to make a triangle and then places a triangular amethyst underneath. c. 1900:


For more scholarly research, please examine

Rene Lalique: Schmuck Und Objets D’Art, 1890-1910 (Materialien zur Kunst des. 19. Jahrhunderts)

Rene Lalique at the Calouste Gulbenkian Museum

Janvier Quercia was a French silversmith who worked c. 1900. This hair comb was part of a three-piece silver-gilt parure, which included a belt buckle and necklace. A woman emerging from leaves expressed Art Nouveau’s philosophy of metamorphosis. The buckle was made from a metal die cast from a wax model. A reducing machine altered the size of the die to make the comb. As he was making jewelry, Quercia founded Abdullah, a company that made lighters, which was taken over by his son Marcel in 1948.

Quercia’s hair pin design seems similar to my Elkington and Co. barrette. Elkington invented electroplating silver onto copper in the 1840’s, and my piece was made in England, c. 1900.


For more scholarly research, please examine

7000 Years of Jewelry

I would like to welcome two new authors to our community blog.

An award-winning Canadian modern artist, Jessica Beauchemin creates balanced abstract wood sculptures, which I feel mirror the design sense of Alexander Calder.

Our second new author is Miriam Slater. We have had passionate conversations about Japanese hair ornaments for years, and she has put her collection online. When I saw what she had, I fainted. She will write about her own collection, as is proper, but as I have absolutely no emotional control, I must share three pieces. They are all Edo masterpieces, and I am sure Miriam will have more to say about her work in future posts.

Ivory Edo half-moon comb of plover birds sitting on a cherry tree branch, with blossoms.

Tortoiseshell Edo comb of three carp swimming in the water. The carving on the fish is so detailed, they almost have human expressions.

Do you see how the turtle is looking from underneath the water at the birds flying above? The artist achieves this metaphor by hooking the birds to the kushi with silver finials and coral beads. Brilliant.

This is a modern replica of a Victorian tiara, made of 5 graduated diamond flowerheads, some have a 2- to 3-carat fancy vivid yellow diamond in the center and 2 or more carats of D flawless white diamonds, which make up the petals. There are also marquise-shaped yellow diamonds on the bandeau. It is part of a parure. This 5-piece set and can either be hooked onto the necklace to make a second tier or worn as the tiara, shown. With earrings, the price estimate is $500,000. It is being auctioned in Dubai on April 20.

But sometimes, artists can have different thoughts about diamonds. Here are graduated diamond studs hooked around rubber to make a bandeau. I have never seen this combination of materials before, and I love it.

This gilded, enameled turban ornament is from 19th Century Persia. On the front, the central panel depicts foliage and is surrounded by diamonds. The plumed crown has rubies, emeralds, and is bordered in blue enamel, fringed with pearls. The reverse side is enameled in green, blue, pink, and gold, and also fringed with pearls and a flower. Sotheby’s is estimating the price at 40,000 to 60,000 GBP.

This rare ruby and diamond tiara comes from the Ottoman Empire, Turkey, c. 1800. Its openwork frame supports a large diamond floral rosette in the center surrounded by diamond petals and floral sprays. On top, the crown boasts a star and crescent. Estimated price: 30,000 to 40,000 GBP.

c.1904 – 1905. The comb is horn, the brim is gold, the leaves are tortoiseshell, and the diamonds make them look like ice.

There was an excellent doctoral thesis done on Lalique by Fallon Lee Miller of Eastern Michigan University in 2003. Beautifully referenced for scholarly research. I recommend taking the time to read it.

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Longlocks Hair Sticks

Your long locks are truly one-of-a-kind. Shouldn't your hair jewelry be?

Creative Museum

Two sparrows clutch berries in this clear horn comb by Albert Vigan, c. 1900

Jen Cruse. Author

The Comg: Its History and Development

Lavishly illustrated with over 500 photographs, this is a wide-ranging, scholarly reference book.

Miriam Slater: Artist, Collector

I hope to share the beauty of Japanese hair ornaments with a broader audience.

Kajetan Fiedorowicz: Artist, Collector

May peace and human kindness be victorious over war.

Jessica Beauchemin

"to link the nuances of creation to the precision of the handwork"


The Museum Scholar

Connecting hair comb collectors and major museums

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