Combing through China’s history . . .


Chinese ivory combs, like the ones illustrated here, were made for the Western market. Ivory work, primarily based in Canton (Guangdong), reached the apex of production between 1790 and 1850. Merchants and travellers typically brought home to Europe small items as souvenirs and gifts for family and friends. Additionally, an export  business gradually built up around small, decorative ivory pieces and combs (craved, fretted or pierced) became a part of this industry.

Ivory combs like these are crafted in the European style and would have been exported in substantial quantities to markets in the USA and Europe. Many of them were intricately carved and are evidence of considerable craftsmanship. Very often subjects of great Chinese symbolic importance were carved , like the dragon in the comb above. For Western purchasers such imagery was perfectly acceptable endorsing the credentials of the object as coming from the mysterious and exotic East.


These pictures are sourced from Barbaraaness Hair Comb blog. There is truly something for everybody on the net today, no matter how arcane your interest!