Pictured is a fine example of a high-end, early to mid 20th century antique cigarette case. The body of this piece is crafted from blued steel, giving it a characteristic, gunmetal gray finish. Although not sterling silver, this antique cigarette case has other attributes typically found on expensive specimens, like a fine, natural blue sapphire cabochon mounted in the thumb-push, an applied, solid gold monogram and decorative gold trim.
Made in China is a term that we encounter nearly every day - and that is rarely a good thing. That Blu-ray player you bought for $40 at Wal-Mart that doesn't work quite right? It was made in China. The two-week old toaster that almost burned down your house when it shorted out in a brilliant pyrotechnic display? Also made in China. The no-name vacuum cleaner that went on a savage rampage and tried to eat your cat, Mr. FluffyBottom? Undoubtedly made in China.
Today Chinese goods are synonymous with poor quality, mass produced junk. And this debris has invaded our lives, overwhelming us with inferior, low quality household items of every description. In many ways the phrase "made in China" is a metaphor for the increasingly debased nature of the post-modern experience. And yet there are alternatives to a life crammed full of crudely manufactured consumer trash - for example, a tasteful collection of fine antique silver cigarette cases or cigar cases.
Solid silver antique cigarette cases and cigar cases, along with vintage cigarette holders, are one of the sleeper hits of the objet d'art world. Long underappreciated, this genre of the popular tobacciana field is starting to see renewed collector interest. Once the province of gilded age gentlemen's clubs and aristocratic smoking rooms, vintage tobacco paraphernalia and advertising are increasingly appreciated by modern connoisseurs. Especially popular from the late 19th century until the mid 20th century, antique silver cigarette cases and cigar cases were indispensable accessories for the high-class smoker. In addition to being irrefutably stylish, they also served the very practical function of keeping fragile cigarettes or cigars dry and undamaged during poor weather.
Affordable Antique Silver Cigarette Cases For Sale
Just because you aren't a tobacco user, doesn't mean you can't admire and collect these overlooked vintage gems. While certainly in demand from current-day smokers, elegant antique silver cigarette cases are sometimes repurposed by corporate professionals to tastefully hold business cards. Men and women with a luxury retro aesthetic also find that they make great billfolds, wallets or credit card holders, too.
Master silversmiths employed a dizzying array of stunning decorative techniques in the production of these cosmopolitan luxury items. Beautifully engraved or chased designs were perennial favorites. High contrast niello was a painstakingly exacting technique commonly used on Russian and Siamese cases. Colorful enameling and dazzling engine turning were both staples of the language of early 20th century design. Gilding, popular across every age and country, was employed to impart a classy, tasteful appearance. Some fine cigarette and cigar cases were crafted with solid gold applied motifs or initials, giving a look of understated elegance. A few of the more sumptuous examples were even mounted with sparkling cabochon cut sapphires, rubies or other glittering gemstones.
Antique Silver Cigarette Cases with Applied Gold Decorations For Sale
Antique cases of the 19th century were dominated by ornate Victorian tastes, with copious use of chased and engraved floral designs. By the turn of the 20th century, Art Nouveau, with its naturalistic, flowing aesthetic, had come into vogue. A common hallmark of Art Nouveau cigarette cases was the portrayal of languorous, sinuous women - either partially or fully nude. Starting in the 1920s, Art Deco came to the fore, extensively employing engine-turned and enameled geometric motifs on silver cigarette cases. The 1940s and 1950s were characterized by the streamlined, minimalist look of Mid-Century design. During this period silver cigarette cases and cigar cases had either subtle or no embellishment whatsoever, leaving large expanses of unadorned silver as the artistic focal point.
Tremendously beautiful silver cigarette cases and cigar cases were made throughout Europe and the United States. The firm of Asprey & Co., a storied London-based luxury goods retailer and holder of a royal warrant, was one of the leading British manufacturers of cases. In the United States, Tiffany and Gorham were renowned for producing exceedingly high quality work. Silver cigarette cases made by the French jeweler Cartier were synonymous with extravagant luxury.
Asprey, Cartier, Gorham & Tiffany Antique Silver Cigarette Cases For Sale
However, perhaps the most outrageously sumptuous cases were produced in Czarist Russia. Russian silversmiths, including the esteemed Faberge workshop, often employed niello, precious stones and applied gold motifs when making these miniature masterpieces. Keep in mind that the aforementioned silversmiths are just a few outstanding manufacturers among many; other silversmiths not mentioned here also produced truly excellent work.
When investing in silver cigarette cases or cigar cases it is important to avoid damaged examples. Accordingly, steer clear of cases with significant dents, chipped enamel, or loose or broken hinges. Minor dents or scratches are acceptable; they are expected on silver items that are almost a century old. Monograms generally have little impact on value unless they are artfully incorporated into the design of the piece. In these (admittedly uncommon) instances a monogram can boost the case's value. Inscriptions can be desirable if they reference historical events, people or add interest to the item.
Antique Silver Cigar Cases For Sale
Conversely, a full set of silver hallmarks aid in identification and are highly desirable. Ever popular British pieces will almost always be fully hallmarked while continental European cases can be more hit or miss in this regard. American examples are usually stamped "sterling" in addition to having a maker's mark. Good quality cases in heavier silver generally start at only around $100. Cases by notable makers are always of a consistently high quality and generally run into the several hundreds of dollars. Exceedingly fine, jewel encrusted examples can command more than $1,000. Exceptional Russian cases from the Czarist period can easily fetch thousands of dollars.
A discriminatingly assembled collection of quality silver cigarette cases and cigar cases is not only likely to steadily appreciate in value, but is also a joy to own. Few things would be as subtly impressive as offering your friend a Cuban cigar from your pre-revolution, Czarist Russian silver cigar case. One can just imagine his expression as he glimpses the magnificent case - silver shimmers with delicate yet bold niello scrollwork, solid gold initials glint elegantly and the royal blue of a precious sapphire cabochon glitters seductively from the thumb-catch.
Russian Antique Silver Cigarette Cases For Sale
Made in China is a reality that we must live with in many aspects of our lives today. But that doesn't mean we have to resign ourselves to being surrounded exclusively by cheap Chinese junk. A small collection of fine, antique silver cigarette cases and cigar cases may be the perfect way to set yourself apart in a world inundated by undesirable clutter.