The Darling of Art Deco: A Vanity Case that's Both Beauty and Function

The Darling of Art Deco: A Vanity Case that's Both Beauty and Function

A vanity case is a compact, portable container that holds makeup and other beauty essentials. It was a staple of the Art Deco era, and it remains a beloved accessory for fashionistas and beauty lovers today.

In the world of beauty and fashion, trends come and go, but there are some classic styles that endure the test of time. One such style is Art Deco, an iconic design movement that emerged in the 1920s and 1930s. Art Deco is characterized by its geometric shapes, bold colors, and luxurious materials, and it has been a major influence on fashion, architecture, and interior design.

In the history of the world, the tobacco culture has been prosperous for a long time.

Although smoking is harmful to health, in Western history, the derivative of cigarettes, the cigarette case, was once a fashion symbol recognized by the public and loved by celebrities.

These European antique cigarette cases carrying the memories of the years have accompanied their owners on various occasions, and at the same time, they also demonstrate the unique taste and identity of the owners.



The origin of the metal cigarette case

In 1518, Spanish explorers discovered that the Aztecs and Mayans used empty reeds to smoke grass, and cigarettes were produced in this way.Paper cigarettes were first popular in Turkey, and the locals liked to roll up shredded tobacco in newspapers for smoking.

In 1843, France began to manufacture the first commercially sold cigarettes in history. Later, cigarettes became popular everywhere.



From the mid-19th century to the mid-20th century, metal cigarette cases that combined beauty, portability, and durability flourished.

The metal-cased cigarette case was born primarily to prevent the fragile cigarettes from being crushed.

In Europe at the beginning of the 20th century, smoking became a fashion.

 Ladies smoke in public, and store cigarettes in cigarette cases. The styles of cigarette cases are rich and varied, inlaid with various gemstones, and various jewelry techniques are used, making cigarette cases as beautiful as jewelry.



Jewelry Case (Vanity Case)

 At the same time (early 20th century), jewelry cigarette cases made of jewelry can also be called jewelry boxes (Vanity Case).


To be precise, the functions of the Vanity Case can be more comprehensive. It is a small box that combines jewelry craftsmanship and practical functions, which is more abundant than the early metal cigarette case.


The jewelry box is a small box decorated with jewelry craftsmanship, which was born in response to the needs of women in the early 20th century.

The emergence of jewelry boxes is convenient for ladies to make up, smoke, check the time, etc. when they go out. At the same time, it shows the spirit of personal fashion.


There are usually clever designs such as drawers and mechanical mechanisms hidden in the jewelry box, and the practical functions are determined according to the needs of users.

The diversity of jewelry box craftsmanship makes it not limited to metal materials, but can be inlaid with gemstones, enamel, lacquer painting, mother-of-pearl craftsmanship, etc. Decorative patterns and themes are also very rich, and there are many works with exotic themes.

Type of cigarette case

Because of the variety of uses, the jewelry box (Vanity Case) is also more changeable in size and appearance.

But if used as a cigarette case, the shape is usually relatively fixed: they are all slender rectangles that are easy to put in your pocket or purse. Some are even matched with bags and clothing.

However, when subdivided, the materials and themes and styles of antique jewelry cigarette cases are slightly different.



Gemstone dinner bag, lighter and cigarette case | Christie's autumn auction of Rosamund Kwan's private jewelry collection


【According to the cigarette case material】


gold cigarette case

silver cigarette case

Antique german sterling silver portable cigarette case


tin cigarette case




gemstone cigarette case


【Subject Category】


Different users have created some changes in the style of cigarette boxes. The following are some common themes of traditional cigarette boxes.


men's theme

The early cigarette cases were mainly for the convenience of men to smoke. In order to please men, there were usually enamel-painted nude women or pictures of beauties on the cigarette cases.


Circa 1910-1920 Unsigned, silver, silver-plated and enamel cigarette case


Western religious themes

German enamelled gold cigarette case


Oriental exotic style


Cigarette cases with exotic oriental styles were popular in the Art Deco period (1920-1930).



Inseparable art deco style

Throughout the entire development period in the history of cigarette cases and jewelry boxes (Vanity Case), the most distinctive and eye-catching one is the Art Deco (1920-1930) period.

There are many fields of Art Deco style, including fashion, furniture, architecture... and the most talked about among them is of course jewelry.


Cigarette cases and vanity cases were all the rage during the Art Deco period. Some major jewelry brands used enamel, lacquer painting techniques combined with engraving of various precious stones and jade, and incorporated many images of oriental culture into the design to create unforgettable works.



jewellery's darling

Jewelry boxes (Vanity Case) and cigarette cases are not only loved by the upper class in the West; because they have a large space to play and are easy to highlight the design effect, major jewelry brands also have a soft spot for them. Let’s take a look at the works of different jewelry brands ~




During the Art Deco period (1920-1930), Cartier launched a large number of oriental exotic style luxury jewelry boxes (Vanity Case), cigarette cases, gold, emerald, diamond, coral, agate, enamel, everything is used! It stands out among the jewelry boxes (Vanity Case) and cigarette cases of many jewelry brands in the same period.





French jeweler Lacloche Frères


Founded in 1901, French jeweler Lacloche Frères gained acclaim in the first half of the 20th century for its sophisticated and original Art Deco jewelry creations.

Although not as well-known internationally as Cartier, Lacloche Frères' jewelry boxes are even more shocking than Cartier.


Italian jeweler Leopold Janesich







In 1908, guilloché and enameling, set with round-cut diamonds.


Charlton & Co



With the development of generations, cigarette cases and jewelry boxes are no longer a necessity in people's life, but have become a collection of niche people.

Every time I see these exquisite antique cigarette cases and jewelry boxes, I can't help but think of the good times when they accompanied their owners on various occasions.

Do you like these small boxes that show the unique taste and identity of the owner? Come and leave a message in the comment area~



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