A History Of The Jewelry Box

Ancient Beginnings

Many centuries ago, boxes adorned with jewels and precious metals were used to store important documents and treasured pieces of jewelry. Storage options for documents and trinkets were few, so the casket-a container smaller than a chest, but larger than a simple box-was used. Some boxes were adorned with metals, others with embossed leather or carved wood. Others were encrusted with jewels or elaborately carved ivory. Only the extremely wealthy used caskets and jewelry boxes because no one other than the rich could afford to commission skilled craftsmen to create such items. The lower classes would not use such frivolous methods of storage.

Some jewelry boxes were very large and ornate, much like the ones used by Marie Antoinette, whose jewelry armoires are on display today in both France and England.

Trends in Trinket Boxes

In the Victorian era, small boxes for holding trinkets or a few rings were en vogue. Many of these were made of porcelain, and typically, they would showcase images of children, animals, and flowers on the lids. It was common to have several trinket boxes on shelves and tabletops during this era.

Early caskets in America showcased images of pre-Civil War plantation life. Others depicted interest in other cultures such as those of Egypt, Greece, or Rome.

In the early 1900s, metal jewelry boxes were all the rage thanks to the Art Nouveau movement. The caskets were cast in metal and finished in copper, gold, or silver. The outsides of these boxes depicted flowers, birds, and women with long hair. Some had a single flower motif on the outside as a nod to the Victorian trend of sending a message with flowers, and each flower representing its own meaning. Roses would symbolize love, for example.

Today, jewelry boxes are made of wood, carved stone, or cast metal. They may sit on a dresser or bureau or stand alone in the case of the jewelry armoire, which resembles a small cabinet on legs.

Modern Availability

After the Industrial Revolution, jewelry boxes were available thanks to mass production, and companies such as Marshall Fields, Sears and Roebuck, and Montgomery Ward, brought them to the people via mail order catalogs.

Today, nearly all women and some men, have some type of jewelry or trinket box for storing everything from rings and loose change to watches and brooches. Even children enjoy jewelry boxes, including boxes that also play music.

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