Bejewelled, elaborate and delicate; the vanity case is the essence of elegance. An embellished case that serves many different roles, the vanity case is both clutch and compact case allowing for ultimate yet discrete storage for one’s accessories. Since the 1930s, the greatest jewellery houses such as Van Cleef & Arpels, Bulgari, Tiffany, Cartier, Chaumet, Schlumberger, Lacloche, Boivin, Mauboussin and Buccellatti, have all have created styles of these precious cases that have reflected trends from Art Deco, to Art Nouveau, Cubism to Bauhaus. Sotheby's Fine Jewels sales in London and Geneva include an impressive selection of these charming pieces.
In the 1920s, ladies began carrying their cosmetics with them in vanity cases. In the twenties, as women became increasingly independent, fashion trends changed. Clothing became more relaxed and streamlined as layers of fabric were discarded giving way to slip dresses and the Chanel jersey suits, leaving no room to hide away accessories such as lipstick and powder. This era of couturier demanded a solution.
In the 1930s, Charles Arpels noticed his friend, the American heiress Florence Gould, throwing her lipstick, cigarette lighter, powder and a few bank notes in a Lucky Strike tin box. After seeing this, Arpels invented the vanity case as the ultimate solution.
Miniatures demonstrate the most elevated type of craftsmanship; from the inside to the outside, engineering these precious objects took time and patience. Upon opening a vanity case, you can see there is place for everything. A lipstick holder, a pair of glasses, mirror, comb, cigarette lighter and powder compact can all unfold in the most streamlined way. Each accessory has its place; there is no wasted space. Creating these precious works of art was an exact science that required the most skilled of craftsman. Each stage of production required flawless execution to continue the process.
The materials used for these cases also presented jewellers with infinite possibilities: precious stones, onyx, jade, mother of pearl lacquer, tortoise-shell – using craftsmanship and ingenuity, the greatest jewellery houses created cases of all designs, textures and colours. These compact cases provide a glimpse into the golden era of beauty and adornment.