Although smoking is no longer fashionable, from the early 19th century through at least the 1960s, it was seen by many as a symbol of sophistication and even glamour. In the 1950s, nearly 40 per cent of women smoked, in the home, the office and at social gatherings. A ladies’ cigarette case, which snapped closed and held cigarettes in place in one or more rows, was considered an elegant and decorative accessory and came in a variety of materials and styles.
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Among the most popular types of ladies’ cigarette cases were those made of sterling silver, some ornamented with jewels. These glitzy, sleek looking accessories can be seen in classic Hollywood movies, flaunted by Marlene Dietrich and other glamorous stars. Some were engraved with monograms for a personal touch.
Art deco cigarette cases were also a hot fashion item for decades and were seen as the epitome of cool. In the 1920s, when women began to smoke in public, taking one of these cases from a purse was seen as both a convention-defying and a trendsetting act. Art deco cases often had a chrome or golden bronze finish with an embossed geometric design. For those who could afford it, an art deco style gold case by Cartier could cost thousands of dollars.
Enamel Decorated Cases
Enamel ladies’ cigarette cases, similar to some compacts, featured elaborate colour pictures, depicting not just birds and flowers but animals, favourite characters or pastoral scenes. Many of these items were made in Russia, France, Germany, England and Japan. In addition to being functional, some could be classified as jewellery and even works of art. The Japanese hand-painted enamel cases were delicately made, and typically depicted Mount Fuji, dragons or village scenes with bridges and pagodas.
The House of Faberge, known the world over for its magnificent Easter Eggs, also produced a large collection of individually designed cigarette cases. Each handcrafted case was unique, ranging in style from modernistic to rococo. For the serious collector, these lavish, bejewelled masterpieces in miniature are the ultimate find. The Faberge cases were typically made of silver, with rounded edges, a flourish of leaves and a polished sapphire.
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