Secret Life of Antiques: Vanity Cases Through the Ages

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Today’s installment of the Secret Life of Antiques is dedicated to the peculiar and rather fascinating object – dance compacts. These small, usually cap or enamelled or hand-painted trinket pieces of sterling silver or gold were intended to be worn on a lady’s wrist. This cosmetic item came into existence in the 17th century, though during the reign of Louis al IV, it was exclusive to the royals. Compacts were the last to gain popularity that by the later part of the 1800’s , jewelers began to design them to carry rouge and powder especially for women. Other types of necessaries, which could be also carried in the hand like small handbags, had compartments for powder, coins and paper money.

source: reddit

In the late of nineteenth century these cases reflected elegance and luxurious taste which was considered to be all right in that period In particular the cases made from silver and enameled by the technique of guilloche originated from France. The glamour of fashionable flappers in the ’20s allowed the heights of compact manufacturing, despite this being the last developing years. Compacts soon evolved into standardized and later into a series of products; the sterling silver and guilloche works are the most valued among collectors today. Beauty and workmanship make them elegant gifts that can be given on events such as birthdays, weddings, valentine’s etc.

The prices of the antique compacts and nécessaires also depend upon its rarity, quality of work, and condition of the artefact, sterling silver case rang from $350- $650 for a simple design and $800- and above for an enameled compact. These compacts are not only practical, but striking to look at as well. Some of the clients usually fix them in special and unique places like shadow boxes or even in glass encasement, occasioned by their historical and artistic value. Regardless of their functions, these compacts are useful and exquisite products of the glamorous past.