Vintage Japanese Ivory Hair Comb and Hair Pin

This is a Vintage Japanese Ivory Comb, (Kushi), and Hairpin, (Kanzashi) set. The motif, was attained through an inlay process using mother of pearl, (aogai), in a bamboo leaf design, which is on the comb and hairpin ends. The use of abalone, (aogai), was introduced to Japan in the early 16th Century and used extensively throughout the 19th Century. The piece is in its original kirkwood box. Condition: Excellent with all the combdrumbs, (teeth), in tact. Dimensions: (comb) 3-3/4″ x 1 1/2″; (hair pin) 6-0″ x 3/8″

Additional Information —
A Japanese comb and hairpin is about much more than just styling one’s hair. Some 400 years ago, Japan took the simple comb and transformed it into an elegant beauty accessory that became a work of art. Japanese kushi, (combs), and kanzashi, (hairpin), became expressions of a woman’s character, social class, religion. People could even tell what neighborhood someone lived in by looking at their hair ornaments. According to an ancient Japanese proverb, “A woman’s hair is her life”, (Kami wa onna no inochi), and from the early 1600’s until the beginning of the modern era, decorative combs and hairpins have been an important part of Japanese fashion.

Kushi and Kanzashi are elaborate Japanese hair ornaments often worn with traditional Japanese clothing in the past, which continues throughout contemporary Japanese society. There are many different styles of Kushi & Kanzashi, depending upon what they are made from and how they are fastened into the hair.

The majority of Kushi & Kanzashi are made from Bakelite, which is probably the most collectible — and valuable — plastic in existence today. In the 1920s, production began on bakelite jewellery in Japan; the colorful pieces, which in many cases incorporate gold, silver and mother of pearl, were attractive and affordable to people of all classes. They could be produced in various colors, but the most common were yellow, butterscotch, red, green and brown. Bakelite could also be transparent, or marbelized by mixing two colors. Kushi & Kanzashi are often still made by hand, as they are intended for an extraordinary variety of hairstyles. Both come in quite a variety of shapes and in several instances “rare” materials have also been used including ivory, tortoise shell, jade, coral, and precious stone. Bamboo and wooden combs were usually soaked in camellia oil to keep their shine for many years.

Here is a short history of the use of hair ornaments in Japan:

Jomon Period 12,000 – 300 BC
This prehistoric period of Japanese culture marks the very beginning of what would later become an extremely complex civilization. During this period, many people wore a single chopstick in their hair, which was believed to ward off evil spirits.

Nara Period 710 – 795 AD
During this period, Japanese society was beginning to flourish, but was still very much centered on growing rice in small villages. Many cultural markers, including dress and artistic styles, were imported from China. During this period, Kushi, Kanzashi, and other hair ornaments were brought over from China, and greatly influenced the styles of upper class Japanese.

Heian Period 795 – 1185 AD
This period is best known as being the very height of culture and class in the imperial court. During this period, the Samurai class flourished. As the culture grew and hairstyles shifted, Kushi & Kanzashi became the general term for many different types of hair decorations, including sticks, combs, and pins.

Edo Period 1603 – 1868 AD
This period of Japanese history is marked by economic growth and strict government policies regarding social order and foreign influences. Kushi & Kanzashi became extremely popular during this time, and artists began creating more and more elaborate designs, including some which could be used as a weapon.

Contemporary Period
Kushi & Kanzashi are considered traditional hair decorations, which may be worn during festivals or stage performances. These elaborate designs may include combs, bells, silk flowers, or any contemporary motif. Like most Japanese styles, Kushi & Kanzashi designs will vary upon the season, age, and rank of the wearer.

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