Enamel on Silver Cigarette Case, Continental, 1890.
Dimensions: 3″ x 4″ Lev Tov Antiques.
There’s a reason several of James Bond’s gadgets come disguised as cigarette cases; like Bond’s tools, cigarette cases are never just utilitarian–they’re objects of fashion. Cigarette cases have always been stylish personal accessories, and due to the renewed interest in tobacciana since the cigar revival of the 1980s, cigarette cases have again become popular collectibles. Ranging from opulent to plain, refined to cheekily crude, there as many styles of cigarette cases as there are collectors.
Sterling silver and enamel Art Deco cigarette case, French circa 1930s. Dimensions: 3″ x 2-3/4″ x 1″ Rosalie Clauson Antiques.
The two general categories of cigarette cases are the case intended for home use that takes the shape of a box, like the one above, and the more common type of thin, rectangular case meant to fit snugly in purses and pockets. Most antique and vintage cigarette cases are made from silver but bear a great variety of designs, including crests such as the Russian one below, and elaborate inlay as on the Japanese case beneath it.
Cigar/cigarette case decorated with plaques of animals and crests, .84 silver. Imperial Russia, c. 1900. Size: 4.5″ x 3″ x 1″ Alter Silver Gallery.
Mixed metal cigarette case, sterling silver, copper and brass, Japanese, circa 1930-40. Irish Rosenthal.
When smoking became highly fashionable in the 1920s, Paris naturally rose to predominance as the high-end cigarette case design capitol of the world, with French jewelers like Cartier and Van Cleef & Arpels creating enamel cases bearing geometric design and precious stones, like the lovely case below. Art Deco designers favored bold imagery–today, Deco era cases featuring strong animal or airplane designs, such as the rare case beneath the Cartier case, are very much sought after by collectors.
Art Deco cigarette case, 18k gold with enamel and diamonds, Cartier, circa 1930. Height: 2 1/2″ Width: 3″. Samuel Saidian & Sons.
Sterling silver & enamel cigarette case, featuring airplane. Austrian, circa 1915. Length: 3.5″ Height: 3″. Gallery 47.
Enamel on silver cigarette cases are offered at a wide range of price points from the very valuable, such as the case above, to much more affordable (in the range of a few hundred dollars), making them good investments for beginning silver and/or tobacciana collectors. Most importantly, like any accessory if perpetually carried around, an antique or vintage cigarette case is a herald of your tastes, shorthand for who you are as a person, just as it was when it was first made. See more of our galleries’ cigarette cases here.