Saturday, 29 June 2013

Age of Glamour – Nécessaires and Minaudières ...


The Jazz Age that phrase coined by J Scott Fitzgerald for the 1920s during which he portrayed his Great Gatsby ... seems to epitomise the spirit of the post War/pre Depression era ...
 
My photo of the
Goldsmiths' Company brochure

The Goldsmiths’ Company had another exhibition this year “Ultra Vanities - Bejewelled Make-Up Boxes from the Age of Glamour” (1920 – 1970) ... displaying nearly 300 of these most exquisite little  nécessaires de beauté or minaudières...


The collection is owned by one person – but what a wonderful co-incidence of timing that the Goldsmiths’ were able to show us these works of art.


With the end of the War, society had once again to adjust ... but times had changed – the middle classes were wealthier and could move into the upper echelons of life, while the rich mingled as travel was easier ... yet many were poorer, then there were the wheeler-dealers, gangsters call them what you will ... who preyed on others to get by ...


My photo of the inside of the
brochure
This ‘little’ collection takes us back and lets us look forward ... these bejewelled precious-metal cases are miniature feats of engineering and skilled craftsmanship ...


... the War encouraged new developments, yet people moved to escape those ravages ... the engineers, designers and jewellery trades came into their own catering to these new classes ...


Wiki: Van Cleef + Arpels'
minaudiere 1934
Cosmetics date back to 4,000 BC, Egyptian times, however in western societies they remained largely the preserve of the upper classes until the 19th century: their application had been for private consumption, not public flaunting.


Now as a response to changing fashion and the developing social history after the War, make-up became acceptable and these little ultra vanities offered an essential accessory in the early 20th century.


The Jazz Age prevailed ... minimal clothing, a bob hair cut and a counterbalancing micro handbag or minaudière ... the jewellery trades, fashion houses and designers all flourished: stone cutting and setting, enamelling and lacquering – with some ‘boxes’ taking up to 500 hours to make.


My photo - unknown maker
c 1925 made from Lapis Lazuli
with a Chinese incluence
The skill of the craftsman is so apparent ... a tiny metal box ingeniously engineered to contain a powder compact, lipstick, comb, cigarette holder and occasionally a notepad and pencil ...


... then the designers and jewellers could craft their magic on the metals ... adding rubies, diamonds, emeralds, sapphires, using soft stones, enamelling, exquisite artwork, creating modern designs ... setting trends ...


As fashion changed during the 1930s to the simpler, elegant Art Deco designs ... the French jewellers and fashion houses changed accordingly ... feathering the gold lids, pierced work for a screen top, jadeite plaque added onto an enamelled face ...

My photo: Tiffany 1950 - 1960

... during the 2nd World War the design was more severe ... while their decoration came from coloured metals, rather than the ostentation of precious metals, stones or enamels.


The 1950s saw a brief resurgence, when the tiny metal cases were incorporated into the frames of handbags, but the advent of youth culture dealt minaudières their death knell.


Charlton: 1950; another Tiffany; Lacloche 1920
(black enamel, with gold and coral);
Chaumet 1925 (grey gold, enamel, rubies and
diamonds)  Photo from Luxury Launches
and much better photos if you'd like to look.
The incredible luxury, sophistication, decadence and romance of the Age of Glamour is so exquisitely on show at this Gold Exhibition ... which puts into context the film of the book “The Great Gatsby” ...



... as many of you know – my education starts here – I am so unread it’s almost embarrassing, but I’m learning through you ... on my way to London yesterday – not for this exhibition ... but to see some Harry Potter, tube posters and Lego maps! ...  strange but true ...  I spent a few minutes looking at books as one does waiting for trains ...


I picked up The Great Gatsby, the paperback, in which there’s an interview with Baz Luhrmann on his realisation of the film ... and realised the connection with this Goldsmiths’ Exhibition ...

My photo: and open necessaire
by Lacloche Freres c 1926

... the interview opens up new doors too ... let alone the fact that the Great Gatsby is a novella ... so on my return last night I bought it – hence the fact I know about Fitzgerald and Zelda being the Jazz couple and his adoption of that phrase The Jazz Age.

Fascinating times ...


I’ve posted some photos ... but if you’d like to look at better ones please visit The Jewellery Editor site ...

... which has wonderful descriptions of these little boxes – for example:


This is a photo from The Jewellery Editor site - which
really does show the incredible engineering skills
that went into the design of these tiny ultra vanities
A rectangular nécessaires de beauté or minaudières, by Van Cleef + Arpels (5 ½ x 3 x 0.7 inches) showing the internal elements of compact, comb, lipstick and a space (possibly for cigarettes).


Made of gold, the lid is engraved with plant motifs, with each flower comprised of four rubies and a diamond in closed settings.  At the edges of the cover, each flower has three ruby petals.  There is an invisible button on the base to open and close the lid.


The Goldsmiths' Company Summer Exhibition - free entry and open til 20th July 2013

Hilary Melton-Butcher
Positive Letters Inspirational Stories

50 comments:

Munir said...

My mom had a jewelry box from i930s and it was beautiful. I should have taken it when she offered it to me. I don't know what she did with it after we lost our dad and she moved to the Us. None of my siblings have it as we saved her little things after we lost her too. Oh well, I hope who ever has it now values it for it's worth.

Food, Fun and Life in the Charente said...

It is amazing how things have changed over time and how I wish we had many things that have been thrown out over the years! Interesting post. Have a great weekend. Diane

Jo said...

I kind of remember seeing these when I was a youngster. I remember being given an ornate compact which was also a music box, but was not really a minaudiére. I had (still have) a silver cigarette box which held about 8 cigarettes, but nothing else.

Al Diaz said...

I know someone who would love to make a collection of all these. Some are truly AMAZING!

Karen Walker said...

I do have a vague recollection of seeing these lovely boxes when I was growing up. I love things like this.

Manzanita said...

Very interesting post, Hilary. I always liked to look at pictures/drawings of the Jazz Age with all the art deco lines. I recall my mother and her sisters having those little make-up boxes. I had to smile at your now education of H. Potter etc. I feel the same. I have to admit that I've never made it through the Great Gatsby. I've started many times. I always found Scotty's actual life more exciting than his books.

Mark Means said...

I always find it amazing the time and effort they put into the most 'ordinary' things back then.

You just don't see that sort of workmanship, much, anymore.

Interesting stuff and have a great weekend, Hilary :)

Val Poore said...

Fascinating, Hilary. It's a shame things have become so prosaic these days. I notice it everywhere. Have a good weekend!

Teresa Coltrin said...

Those boxes are beautiful.

My daughter and I were talking yesterday about makeup worn by Cleopatra and how some of it has been deemed a little poison. What we gals will do for a little bling. :)

Suzanne Furness said...

Truly beautiful little works of art. The work that went into them is incredible.

Sandy said...

Cool cool boxes. I remember some that I've seen in older family members houses in years past. The Great Gatsby, might be a good book to take on my next trip.
Thanks for the visit.

Hilary Melton-Butcher said...

@ Munir - how lovely .. and as you say, as the family doesn't have it, I hope someone else who loves it - is enjoying it ..

@ Diane - yes I wished I'd kept a few things .. but never really had much ..

@ Jo - I used to be given tiny bags by the elderly aunt who died last year aged 95 ... I think she might have been thinking I'd be petite and elegante - just never quite made it!! .. but loved the bags .. thankfully I never smoked, but we did have cigarette boxes at home ...

Your ornate compact must have been lovely - so pleased you remember it ..

@ Al - ah ah ... wouldn't a private collection be just wonderful - is that Mrs Dragon? They are extraordinary - and amazing as you rightly say ..

@ Karen - it's great to be reminded of those days .. wish I'd been remotely that elegant!

@ Manzanita - just seeing these makes me sort of linger ... just imagining owning one of them .. and that decoration is just so exquisite ..

How fabulous you can remember these little boxes (or similar)in your house -

My education is poor .. now I actually own the book - I'd better read The Great Gatsby and see the film ...

Harry Potter was vaguely done via godchild and my honorary one - same birthday ...

@ Mark - the care and precision .. mind you now-a-days there is workmanship out there - and the few who realise the worth and can afford it benefit.

We don't understand that kind of love and care for workmanship today do we ...glad you enjoyed it ..

@ Val - cheap and not often very cheerful ... things are now.. as you say prosaic.

@ Teresa - stunningly lovely aren't they. Funny how links occur like you and your daughter discussing early cosmetics as poisonous, so often without anyone realising ... now I'm not even sure we even know what's in our make-up ...

... but girls do love bling - I'd have one or two of those blings very happily!!

@ Suzanne - I was completely bowled over by them .. so beautiful to look at - I'd have loved to have handled one, and looked at the craftsmanship of others ...

@ Sandy - at least you've seen some of the boxes ... and oh ok I've given you an idea for a book to take .. it's short remember!

Cheers everyone - have great weekends .. and thanks for your visits .. Hilary

I hope now we can

Julie Flanders said...

Absolutely love these boxes. And your post made me want to read Gatzby again. :)

Gattina said...

My mother had a lot of these precious things, like binoculars in mother of pearl for the theatre, cigarette cases, jewelry boxes, etc. I have put them in a vitrine, it's out of fashion now.

Jo said...

Guess I didn't mean cigarette box but cigarette case which I carried around with me. I still do have cigarette boxes but not the same thing at all.

rosaria williams said...

Do read the book, and skip the film! Better to see the old film with Robert Redford than this new one which is more style than substance, loud and in your face all the way.

Chatty Crone said...

I have some things like that from my mother. Glad I do too. And I think Cleopatra wore a lot of make up up too. sandie

Alex J. Cavanaugh said...

Here in the USA that was the time of prohibition. Rather ironic, don't you think?

JoJo said...

Those are gorgeous!!! My weakness are beaded purses from the same era.

D.G. Hudson said...

A very interesting article, Hilary. I just saw an episode (hubs watches it faithfully) of Antiques Road Show UK and they had a collection of similar compacts with lovely designs. Are your photos items that belong to you?

I've been reading Fitzgerald (all but one of his books) and I've reviewed them. But not Gatsby. I'll leave the URl in case you're interested. This one has the story of Zelda and how they met (fictionalized but based on them.)

http://dghudson-rainwriting.blogspot.ca/2013/01/tender-is-night-by-f-s-fitzgerald-review.html

Chuck said...

Interesting and unique post, Hilary. It seems like some of these were quite valuable with the jewels and all. I wonder if those days saw a rise in "purse snatching" as it were?

Janie Junebug said...

Gatsby is my all-time favorite book. When I moved to Maryland, I visited Scott and Zelda's graves as soon as I could. Their daughter is buried very near them. The last line of Gatsby is on Scott's headstone.

Love,
Janie

Hilary Melton-Butcher said...

@ Julie - looking at all 300 or so was just amazing .. and I'm now looking forward to reading Gatsby!

@ Gattina - the decorative age came into its own after WW1 .. glad you've got them on display and can enjoy them ..

@ Jo - no worries .. there was beautiful workmanship in the cigarette boxes too, or the cigarette cases - especially for the ladies.

@ Rosaria .. I will read the book - but I will see the film - I'm sure it's different! and yes the Baz Luhrmann 'interview' in the book .. says in his research he studied the other writers Fitzgerald admired, and saw the previous films made ...so I'll see the Redford one too .. thanks for the tip off!

@ Sandie - they are so pretty to look at aren't they and worth treasuring .. Cleopatra is purported to have worn make up ..

@ Alex - your comment went into spam .. I wonder why - that's never happened before!

According to Baz Luhrmann he implies Fitzgerald thought that Prohibition had backfired ... that section is worth a read ...

@ JoJo - are they stunningly lovely .. I can understand your weakness for beaded purses ..beautiful

@ DG - I might have seen that Antiques Road Show one .. they do have beautiful items popping up on that show ... sadly the photos are all iphone ones taken from the brochure, except where I've stated - would love to own some!!

I went over to read your review on Tender is the Night - and have put a note in my book .. so when I do get round to reading it, then I'll have reference points to go to ..

@ Chuck - I would think these are extremely valuable .. gold and jewels with exquisite workmanship.

Very possibly - times were very tough for many in the 1920s and 30s in Europe and with prohibition on in the States .. 'cruel' too ..

@ Janie - well I have it to read ... and I was grateful for your review of 'Les Mis' which I saw the other day ..

Cheers to you all - looks like Summer might have arrived here - glorious day .. warm, sunshine and little wind = bliss! May happy weekends continue - Hilary

juliet said...

What exquisite little boxes Hilary, and what amazing crafting went into them. It must have been very fiddly work. Thank you for another fascinating post.

Lynn said...

I would love to see that exhibition. I've always loved tiny boxes and have a few of them as a collection. Mine are known as "ring" boxes though. I only have two that are very nice - Limoges. The others are just fake jeweled boxes. :) Great post!

TALON said...

Those vanity boxes are truly fascinating, Hilary. I have a thing about boxes...but I don't have anything like those! Hope your weekend has been beautiful so far.

Old Kitty said...

Thank you so much for the info about this most sparkly of exhibitions!! How brilliant!! I feel totally dazzled just by looking at these pics of these little beauties! Oh the luxury and the detail!!

I have to admit to having the Great Gatsby book on my book shelves with my marker stuck at page 21. Ahem!! I think I was much too young to appreciate this book when I first got it nearly 30 years ago now but maybe I should try reading it again now that I'm older and slower! LOL!! Take care
x

L.G. Smith said...

Beautiful items. What a fascinating exhibit. I love pondering over personal items like that and wondering about who owned them.

Optimistic Existentialist said...

My Dad would love these!! He likes to collect these sorts of things.

Hilary Melton-Butcher said...

@ Juliet - exquisite is a good word - I wish I could have got closer and actually seen them in their full glory - but we were so close anyway!

@ Lynn - we all grow up with our little treasures don't we .. and then are given or inherit one or two .. your Limoges boxes sound very pretty and delicate ..

@ Talon - just opening up each little compartment would make me wonder .. then the jewelled designs are so so amazing - I know you'd love these little boxes ...

@ Old Kitty - dazzled is another good word .. I hope you can get to see them .. just the luxury of owning one would be extraordinary ..

I must read the Great Gatsby .. I hope I get past page 21 - we learn things over time and then can appreciate the writing better than when we tried in our youth - let's hope we both succeed with this book.

@ Luanna - sadly I haven't very many .. but I did wonder about some things and that history .. who and what and where from ..

The exhibition didn't tell us who owned the items, and some were of an unknown maker ... makes them even more interesting - who was the craftsman etc ...

@ Keith - I suspect these are fairly costly .. but if your father loves intricacy of workmanship I hope he finds one one day ...

Thanks to you all .. I hope you are all safe and had happy weekends .. with a good week ahead ..

Cheers Hilary

Susan J. Reinhardt said...

I could see a historical fiction author incorporating these cases into their novel. They're beautiful, and I enjoyed reading about their history. :)

cleemckenziebooks said...

I love this era. It was wild and upward looking. All of their hope and excitement was reflected in the music and the art.

When the owner of an artifact is identified in a collection, it makes that artifact so much more meaningful for me.

Sara said...

As always you picked a fascinating subject. I loved the jewel makeup boxes, especially the Lapis Lazuli one:~) The history was interesting to me and perfectly timed with the Great Gatsby, which I haven't read. Did you like it?

Hope all is well with you:~)

Stephen Tremp said...

Its.fun cooking at small.intricate piecesof art. We love goong to museums. The Smithsonian is on our list to do within the next cpuple years.

Hilary Melton-Butcher said...

@ Susan - a potion or pill could be tucked away in a hidden compartment couldn't it .. fun thought - delighted you enjoyed reading their background ..

@ Lee - it's a gorgeous era - I'm coming to appreciate it .. and yes very wild and upward looking, with that hope and excitement for a better happier future ...

I know - the owner of the collection wished to remain anonymous, so the details weren't included - they may be in the book - but it will be £40 and I baulked at the cost! Perhaps I'll pick it up at the library sometime ..

@ Sara - I like to do things that are different, which amuse me and I hope interest you ... so am always delighted with the comments ..

I haven't read the book yet - must do so and check where I can see the film .. life is somewhat busy just now ...

Good to see you again - hope your projects are coming along - I'm about to hit a busy patch ..

@ Steve - museums offer much as do exhibitions I've found .. but one day I too hope to get to the Smithsonian ... a wonderful goal to have and I'm sure the children will enjoy it ..

Cheers to you all - Hilary

Diana Wilder said...

The beauty of these (mostly) hidden items is a treat. And if you reflect that they weren't meant to be continually flaunted, but to take up space in an evening bag, to be taken out from time to time to freshen lipstick, perhaps provide a cigarette... Just the reminder that there is something lovely awaiting one's hand would be sufficient to make one smile quietly...

Hilary Melton-Butcher said...

Hi Diana .. thanks - I'd love to own something 'no-one knows about' and that I can touch and look at occasionally ... so quite agree with your sentiments .. that quiet smile to myself. Cheers Hilary

Rosalind Adam said...

When I was a girl I had a jewellery box with a ballet dancer who twirled round to a tune of some sort when I opened the lid. I wonder what ever happened to it. Some fascinating information here.

Hilary Melton-Butcher said...

Hi Ros .. those little treasures from our childhood and their links to our parents/grandparents are always special aren't they .. I used to love musical boxes -

Glad you enjoyed the information and the post.. not a nice day down here - Wednesday morning ...!! Drizzly and cold .. cheers Hilary

michelle said...

I love those little boxes. Really cute. Such creativity. Especially the Lapis Lazuli.
I'm trying to remember whether I've read the Great Gatsby...? During my high school years. I can't recall. I'll have to add it to my TBR pile.
I'm just thinking that I haven't read a single Harry Potter book. I'll have to remedy that, even if I get to read just one of the books, but I don't know when...
Writer In Transit

klahanie said...

Hi Hilary,

Today, I shall keep my comment rather brief.

Amongst other things such as your exquisite detail, rather comparable to the jewellery, you make me harken back to London.

The Goldsmiths' Company Summer Exhibition is a good deal. Perhaps I could go there and gather a few souvenirs.

A peaceful day to you, Hilary.

Gary

Patricia said...

another fascinating post - Thank you for sharing all the links and great information.

My Great Uncle was an apprentice jeweler to the King's Court and was sent to Calgary, Alberta Canada to open a royal jewelry store in what was perceived to be the great center of the new nation. Calgary did not live up to royal expectations, but my uncle did design some amazing pieces of jewelry during the Jazz Age and some of these boxes.
Other family members got the boxes and my mother and her 2 sisters each got a set of his prototype jewelry. I have the amethyst set of necklace, earrings, ring, and a broach. They include doves of pearls - hundreds of tiny pearls and huge faceted stones of purple. My jeweler friend said they would be worth thousands of dollars, but the gems were all glued into place so can not be extracted without damage
I put the set in a shadow box and if we ever have a bride we may wire the gems into place for the wedding.
I have read the Great Gatsby several times and think I will pass on the movie until it comes out on streaming. I like the books best :)

What a great post - thank you so much

Hilary Melton-Butcher said...

@ Michelle - I love lapiz lazuli .. so had to put that box in ..

I know I haven't read GG - so will be interested to read it .. now I've got some background on the story line ..

.. as to Harry Potter I read one, scanned a couple and saw one or two of the films - they are obviously very clever - but I could never get hooked into them .. the progress of the brand interests me ..

@ Gary - the Summer Exhibition at Goldsmiths' is definitely on my annual radar .. sadly the rest of the shows I simply cannot even think of putting my hand in my pocket for my small change!!! So won't go there .. but any souvenirs going I share with you!!

You too - looks like we might have a sunnier weekend .. one Penny will enjoy with long walks ..

@ Patricia - delighted you enjoyed it ..

.. and your great uncle's story is fascinating .. he must have been an enterprising engineer and jeweller - well perhaps not the jeweller bit .. if he stuck the stones on.

What a pity you haven't got one of his boxes ... well perhaps it's a good thing the amethysts are stuck in place - at least you still have the set - someone might have tried to sell the pieces earlier in their life ...

At least one of your daughters can enjoy the story and celebrate the stones by displaying them ...

I'll read GG sometime and then see the film too .. I know you're a great knowledgeable reader so understand your preference for the read ..

Cheers to you all - have a happy weekend ... we might have some sun, which will be bliss! Hilary

loverofwords said...

Beautiful, beautiful, beautiful. And I learn so much from your commentators as well, Hillary. Just pronouncing the word, "minaudieres," is fun. "The Great Gatsby" is a terrific book, the last two pages wonderful to read.

Joylene Nowell Butler said...

During the estate garage sale for my MIL, we came upon a tiny little bag with some old coins. I'm definitely going to check to see if any of them are valuable. You never know. I looked up the two old dictionaries she had from the 50s and they are apparently worth $350~! Shocking!

Hilary Melton-Butcher said...

@ Tasha .. aren't they beautiful .. I expect made by many a Russian jeweller. Yes I love pronouncing words and was so pleased when I could use these three .. nécessaires de beauté or minaudières...

Ok - now I'd better get reading so I can check out the last two pages .. thanks for the tip off ..

@ Joylene - I hope you can find a treasure trove there .. sometimes (sadly!) the price to buy is considerably higher than the worth to the owner?! Have a good check around though .. you never know ..

Happy Friday and weekend .. and we might just have a hot weekend here - hooray!! Hilary

Tina said...

Fascinating. I totally want one of those little boxes now! I love secret buttons and hidden treasures. As to the Great Gatsby, it's one of my favorite books - glad you'll get to read it!
Tina @ Life is Good

Hilary Melton-Butcher said...

Hi Tina .. all those boxes were amazing .. totally little treasure - I hope the anonymous owner appreciates his/her collection ..

Ok - well I look forward to reading the Great Gatsby soon ...

Happy weekend - lovely and sunny here .. cheers Hilary

Empty Nest Insider said...

What lovely boxes! I read The Great Gatsby in school, and really enjoyed it. I haven't seen the new version, but can't imagine anyone other than Robert Redford in the role.

Julie

Hilary Melton-Butcher said...

Hi Julie - so pleased you enjoyed the boxes .. I have yet to see the film/s ... I couldn't get to grips with the book! Oh well .. perhaps the film will inspire .. these little boxes have!

Cheers Hilary