What is a Cigarette Case?
Cigarette cases are usually slim and rectangular, often with rounded edges and sides, for the comfort of the case being carried within the pocket. One side is hinged, and the cases open or reveal two compartments to hold a small number of cigarettes – antique cigarette cases usually hold around 8 to 10 cigarettes, as many cigarettes in the nineteenth and early twentieth century were shorter and wider than the cigarettes which are produced today. Often, cigarette cases will have a small piece of elastic inside, which would've been used to hold the cigarettes in place on either side of the case, no matter the position in which it was opened.
History of the Cigarette Case
Cigarette cases were in common use from the nineteenth century, until the mid twentieth century. They were largely to protect cigarettes from breaking or damage, in a more effective way than paper cigarette boxes were capable of. The durable metal cases were often decorated with enamel or engravings, and due to smoking being perceived as a masculine pursuit, the design of cigarette cases for men meant that these images on the enamel or engraving often featured women in a state of ‘erotic’ undress.
As with all vintage and antique silverware and gold, there were examples of cigarette cases which were created as the finest example of their type, and intended for use by those who were in the upper echelons of society. There are many examples of gold cigarette cases, as well as the more commonly found silver cigarette cases.
Many gold cigarette cases were engraved, whereas silver cigarette case is more likely to feature an enamel decoration, this is likely because gold was considered too valuable to cover with any other material, and was aesthetically pleasing enough in its own right, without further decoration. Gold cigarette cases often feature engraving, as these would have been highly expensive items, often given as gifts and just as with men's jewellery of the nineteenth century, many items such as these were engraved with the owners monograms and initials.