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Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History

Pyrope Hair Comb

Photograph of a pyrope hair comb (NMNH G2164-02) from the National Gem Collection
Photo by Chip Clark. Click to zoom.
Catalog Number NMNH G2164-02
Locality Cechy (Bohemia), Czech Republic

Gift of Ales and Maria Herdlicka in 1937.

This antique hair comb was donated in 1937 by Ales & Maria Herdlicka. It has Bohemian pyrope garnets from the Czech Republic, historically the principal source of these red garnets that were popular in Victorian jewelry (1837-1901). Garnets were often mounted in yellow gold, gold plate and mixed metal settings during this time. Bohemian garnet jewelry is known for its encrusted close-set stones which are often rose cut (faceted top and flat bottom, as seen here) and are sometimes combined with other larger faceted stones or cabochons. Pyrope gems are the reddest of all garnets, typically very dark red to slightly brownish-red and seldom are larger than a few carats. Pyrope has been confused with ruby, due to its fiery red color, and derives its name from the Greek pyropos, meaning “firelike.” Until the late 19th century, Bohemia was the main source of pyrope garnets. However, limited availability today precludes widespread use in modern jewelry.

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