Posted 6 years ago
This was a rather unexpected find for today from Salvation. Mixed in amongst the jewelry we were sorting through was this very slim little 2 3/8" x 1 1/2 "x 1/4" vesta or match safe. Beautifully monogrammed, I initially thought it was a lighter I also thought it was brass because I didn't see any marks. However at home with a good magnifying glass I noticed something along the recessed edge of the top when I opened it. A lion within an anchor symbol (Gorham) followed by 14K X 1135. There are also some faint numbers crudely scratched into the metal after that "5" "70". On the other side it says"Patent Applied For" again some faintly scratched letters that look like "D" "M". Kind of a nice surprise and a bit different from what I'm usually looking for. -Mike-
NOTE : I did finally take this to the jewelry store to check the purity mark and it weighs 21.23 grams and 13.65 (dwt) penny weight.
A bit more research....
I've been doing some online research thanks to "surfdub66" who pointed out to me that this was indeed a vesta or "match safe" and not a lighter with missing components. Made to hold matches, the striker on the bottom was the obvious clue which I totally missed. I've learned these are highly collectible and made by many companies. The "Golden Age of Vestas" was considered to be from 1870 till 1930. Companies such as Gorham, Unger Bros. even Tiffany, Cartier and Fabrege, made these in anything from brass to gold with engraving and embossed decor and some even had jewels set in the cases. So basically for every economic class. I found a picture of my mark on another site. It was "Gorham" as they use a lion and anchor but they're usually separate and not a single superimposed mark. I also read on a collector's site that the X before the production number was used by Gorham to indicate this model was to be made of gold in any fineness. Picture four is the mark on my case. The 14K mark comes right after the Gorham hallmark and then the fineness X with four numbers for the pattern or style of case. -Mike-
History of Matches and Match Safes
Courtesy of antiqueshoppefl.com
In 1680 an Irishman named Robert Boyle discovered that if you rubbed phosphorus and sulphur together they would instantly burst into flames. He discovered the principle that was the precursor of the modem match. Protection was needed against moisture and accidental ignition and the containers known as match safes were invented. In the 19th and early 20th centuries, craftsmen created lidded safes and open holders made from painted tin to platinum and gold. The most valuable of the pocket match safes are those created of precious metals and stones and signed by the foremost jewelers of the mid-19th and early 20th century. Tiffany & Co., Unger Brothers and Gorham Manufacturing Co. in the United States; Sampson Morden in London and Peter Carl Faberge of Imperial Russia. These early Faberge examples were selling for as much as $10,000 each in the late 1970s.
Some match safes were celluloid covered advertisements and others were souvenirs such as the glass Liberty Bell that was sold to tourists visiting the 1876 Philadelphia Centennial Exposition. Some match safes were made in the form of pigs, cockroaches, the man in the moon and even tombstones. Among the scarcest match cases are silver pocket safes with enameled pictures, most of which depict pretty girls or mythological scenes such as St. George slaying the dragon and safes that have lids that flip up like those on modem cigarette lighters. Larger safes and holders were made to hang on a wall or to rest on a table. Most of the ones that have survived are made of cast iron or painted tin. Those made of papier-mâché, glass or ceramic are rare and desirable The most sought after table safes are the mechanicals, designed to dispense just one match to a customer in hotels and cigar stores. These safes have moving parts that extract a single match from the container. Some people use match safes for cigarettes and others use them as miniature wall-hung planters. Collectors may find other uses for the endless variety of cast iron, glass, china and brass match safes.
The small and compact match safes can be found at flea markets and garage sales or in old trunks in the attic. Wall match safes are often sold with old kitchen equipment.