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Antique Jewelry Boxes: A Lost Art

Every Jewelry collector knows that there is nothing better than finding a Georgian or Victorian piece of Jewelry in its original box. The fitted velvet interior and brightly colored silk-lined lid, the quality leather exterior, burnished by age, the makers mark printed inside the lid. And all the wonderful shapes! Leather boxes shaped and molded around its keepsake, sometimes into quite extra-ordinary designs like, for example, this rather phallic pipe box below...

Meerschaum Pipe. 19th Century French. Amber And Ivory Pierced Heart Design. May have been an opium pipe!

Shagreen Fitted Case for a Bilston Perfume Bottle.

Shagreen is a type of leather, historically from a horse's back, or from a shark or ray.

The word derives from the french chagrin and is related to Venetian sagrin, derived from the Turkish sağrı/çağrı - 'rump of a horse' or the prepared skin of this part. The roughness of its texture led to the French meaning of anxiety, vexation, embarrassment, or annoyance.

In the 17th and early 18th century, the term shagreen began to be applied to skin made from shark or ray. It was first popularised in Europe by Jean Claude Galluchat, a master leatherworker in the court of Louis XV of France. It quickly became a fashion amongst the French Aristocracy, and soon migrated throughout Europe by the mid-18th century.

Red Moroccan Leather Fitted Box For An Enamel Miniature Circa 1730

Another Box (for a larger portrait)

Late 18th Century Georgian Shagreen Cases For Shoe Buckles - photo from Georgian Jewellery by Ginny Redington Dawes and Olivia Collings p35

See my French poissarde earrings c1780 featured in Georgian Jewellery by Ginny Redington Dawes and Olivia Collings p48. you can see clearly here that the box is constructed from a wood block with fittings cut out and topped with velvet, red leather outer box with silk satin inside the lid.

Georgian Poissarde Earring Box

Handwritten clues for the detective...

French 19th Century Earrings In Original Box

Fitted Box For a sentimental pearl and hair pendant, early 19th century. By ' R..... Jeweller .... Holborn, London'

(Although hair jewelry is associated with death and mourning, this is actually not the case. Hair from children, close friends and family and even one's self was often taken and arranged into custom made pieces to be worn as keepsakes.)

Georgian Box the silk interior curved to hold wider cigar bands

Again here you can see that the box is constructed from red leather, card, velvet covered wood block and silk, with tiny brass hinges and hooks.

A Matching Pair Of Rings for brothers upon their father's death late 18th century with matching Ring Boxes

Fitted Box For an Ornamental Hair Comb. English 1833 -40. British Museum. The was made by 'Kitching & Abud, Jeweller To The Queen, 46, Conduit Street'

Above photo from the book 'Jewellery In The Age Of Queen Victoria' by Charlotte Were and Judy Rudoe.

Assorted Shapes....

A Georgian Ring Box made for a pair of rings, proudly stamped 'by appointment to the queen' Bennett Watchmaker and Goldsmith'

Horseshoe Shaped Ring Boxes And Bracelet Box Circa 1830. Note the different styles of ring display. On the left a velvet-covered wire bends to fit and hold the ring. On the right, a flap holds the ring in place.

Inside the central ring box here, the ring sits over a molded fitting that can not be adjusted, rather like the snake bracelet above.

Little Coffins... the combination of colors is always a surprise. As you can see the earlier boxes were most often red or black Moroccan leather, with a cream, or pale blue silk interior. But later, in the Victorian era, the creation of new aniline dyes made other colors possible.

Romantic Hearts

Boxes in England were made in the jewelry districts of London and Birmingham, mainly by women, and often at home, as piecework, to supplement the household income.

Antique ring box for twelve rings

Makers Branding inside the lids

Earring Boxes

Proposal box?

Will you marry me? Proposal ring box by Garrards. A nifty design which allows the gentleman to get down on one knee, open the box with a flourish and display the ring as it pops up. He is also able to display the fact that he bought it from the best place in town. Garrards! Crown Jewellers by Appointment to the Queen. Who could say no?

Cheap and cheerful, vintage cardine boxes

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