Jewelry Boxes thru History

by Joy Jones

Jewelry Boxes thru History

One of my favorite periods of history is the 18th century, AKA the Georgian era.  A time of beautiful jewelry for sure, but also a time when only the ruling class in society could afford to have them.  During this period of history, jewelry was pretty much exclusive to clergy, wealthy aristocrats and members of the royal family.

Marie Antoinette was known far and wide for her beautiful jewelry collection.  As I photographed her stunning jewelry cabinet at Versailles, I couldn’t help but imagine what trinkets in held.  

For some research I have done, I understand that her most valuable pieces were not keep in this cabinet and were stored safely elsewhere.  Which is understandable as her bedroom was always a busy place with the comings & goings and daily activities of her court.

A regular ol’ aristocratic woman during this time would have had a smaller cabinet, as shown above, to hold her precious jewels.  Just a wee bit smaller than Maries wouldn’t you say?

18th century jewelry box photographed in Paris

I photographed this beautiful 18th century royal jewelry box at a museum in Paris.  Wouldn’t you love to see what jewels they originally held?  le sigh………

 

Victorian Jewelry Box

Once the Victorian age came along and the Industrial Revolution had kicked into high gear, jewelry could finally be mass produced using molds.  This advancement in jewelry making ability made it much more affordable for us regular folks in the middle class to be able to buy jewelry.   Now that we had jewelry, we needed a place to store all these treasures and along came jewelry caskets and trinket boxes to solve this problem. 

Some were fancy with multiple drawers, mirrors, glass windows, hand painted details, or even mechanical attachments like clocks or music makers.  You could by single or small tray boxes to hold just a precious ring or a small collection of special occasion only jewelry.

 

Jewelry boxes were made from wood, porcelain, metal and glass.  Porcelain and glass manufactures like Limoges and Fenton, all began creating their own versions of jewelry boxes.  The insides of jewelry boxes could be plain or lined with sumptuous silks or satin.  Often these boxes would be passed down thru the family holding the family jewels, so to speak.

 

By the Edwardian era, metal jewelry boxes were in vogue.  The popular mail order catalog, Sears & Roebuck imported mass produced jewelry boxes from Europe.  Most of these were cast lead and were electroplated with finishes in silver and gold.

By the time the Great Depression and World War II rolled around, American manufacturers began producing less and less jewelry boxes due to these two devastating events.  Soldiers returning home from Europe carried music boxes from Switzerland as gifts and this sparked a new trend and got American manufacturing going again.   During the 50's and 60's, music and mechanical boxes were very much in style.

Remember these?  What little girl growing up during the 50s and 60s didn’t have or want a jewelry box that when opened, revealed a pirouetting ballerina?  Heck, I STILL want one of these!

 



Joy Jones
Joy Jones

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