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"Gorham" 14K Gold Monogrammed "Vesta" or Match Safe /Hallmarked "Lion and Anchor" / Circa 1900

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    Posted 6 years ago

    (1145 items)

    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

    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.

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    1. surfdub66 surfdub66, 6 years ago
      Any chance of a close up on thd hallmarks ??
      Cool find , looks like a vesta case for matches & a striker on the base ;-)
    2. pops52 pops52, 6 years ago
      I think you may be right surfdub!
    3. mikelv85 mikelv85, 6 years ago
      Oh wow surfdub66...just a match case and not a lighter ! That never crossed my mind. Yes it has a row of little lines on the bottom you could strike a match on. I wondered what the residue was on the bottom. Probably phosphorus/sulphur from the matches. The hallmark/maker's mark is so tiny I couldn't get any kind of usable image with my camera. It's a ship's anchor with what looks like a crude griffon or lion in the middle. Haven't spent a lot of time looking yet but I bet I could find it now that I know it's not a lighter. There seem to be more silver mark sites than gold ones. I was looking at an Italian gold mark site this afternoon, but no luck there. They seem to go by region and there are many from Florence to Naples.
    4. SEAN68 SEAN68, 6 years ago
    5. DrFluffy DrFluffy, 6 years ago
      What a fabulous find.... I LOVE IT...
    6. mikelv85 mikelv85, 6 years ago
      Thank you Sean :)
      Thank you DrFluffy :)
    7. mikelv85 mikelv85, 6 years ago
      Thank you petey :) .... I couldn't believe I didn't know what this was considering all the stuff I collect. I got schooled big
    8. surfdub66 surfdub66, 6 years ago
      Sounds like a Birmingham England hallmark & it'll be a sterling lion mark & should have a date letter & maybe a maker mark too :-)
    9. mikelv85 mikelv85, 6 years ago
      Well Sd that's the problem. It doesn't have the typical four character hallmark like the sterling ones with the date code and such. Just the one single mark and numbers like the fourth picture shows. The other side just says "pat. pend." It probably is English just can't find that combined mark any where. -Mike-
    10. surfdub66 surfdub66, 6 years ago
      Cancel that last comment !! Ive just seen your new pic of the marks !!
      The anchor looks like the silver version of the DUSSELDORF anchor...
      Its definatly 14k gold , ive just found a 20c knife fork spoon ,a 2" cup a comb & 2 small brushes on john moran auctioneers with the same marks (unidentified) which sold for $4,500,00 in december 13th 2011 lot1047.
      google it to see !!
      Ill keep looking for id

    11. mikelv85 mikelv85, 6 years ago
      Thanks sd :) So maybe German.... This mystery is getting even more interesting by the moment.
    12. mikelv85 mikelv85, 6 years ago
      Worthpoint has their marks and library site but you have to pay in order to get any info, which would probably just say unidentified anyway. They do have what looks like the mark though. It's on this page :
    13. surfdub66 surfdub66, 6 years ago
      certainly looks like the mark !!
      been searching on & off all day & came across a few 14k marks that were on guilded sterling silver 14k plated & some which actually were 14k gold ..
      is the inside gold coloured too?? if not its gold plated , if yes probably gold , also any wear on the outside?
      I couldn't find the mark [lion over anchor ] in European /Russian hallmarks gold & silver so possibly could be USA /Australian/African...
      still looking... sd
    14. mikelv85 mikelv85, 6 years ago
      I've been searching too sd...... It's surprising that most of these appear to be silver with the four hallmark stamps in them. It's gold inside and out. The interior has a nice glow to it. It has a lot of fine surface scratches and a few tiny dimples in it but not too bad. The top still has a really good spring opens nice an snaps shut like it should. Not sure what letters the monogram represents since it is so fancy. I was reading about pseudo marks. Some companies used similar marks in imitation of other well known companies because they weren't actually required on pieces after a time. A lot of them originated in Hanau Germany but those appear to be mostly on silver as well. Here's the link:

      So I guess it's still a mystery but as far as I can tell it really is solid 14 K gold :)
    15. surfdub66 surfdub66, 6 years ago
      found the anchor/lion mark ;-]
      GORHAM !!!
      I googled the most basic way - lion over anchor- & up it came....
    16. mikelv85 mikelv85, 6 years ago
      Thanks sd.....I did too but never found the mark just by itself. I think the one I saw had Gorham written underneath the mark. Still the same either way I guess. Very cool ! So Gorham it is :)
    17. surfdub66 surfdub66, 6 years ago
      it also says that itll have a pat pend mark sometimes itll say Gorham sometimes a G hidden in the mark ..
      its the only mark that I can find that matches ;-] sd
    18. mikelv85 mikelv85, 6 years ago
      Here's a liveactioneers match safe by Gorham (Circa 1900) that was offered for sale in 2012. Same as mine even has the same serial number of 14K X 1135. They didn't take pictures of the mark though..... darn it ! Mine is not as shiny as the auction one though. Maybe it just needs a good buffing. I like the patina myself.
    19. mikelv85 mikelv85, 6 years ago
      .......and another without a lid button which is exactly like mine :)
    20. mikelv85 mikelv85, 6 years ago
      There is a pat pend. stamp on the other side along with some scratched letters, a D M on one side of the pat. mark and a SW on the other side. Maybe for the engravers reference ? There are also scratched numbers after the serial number a 50-72. I read that some of those scratch marks could be the price code for these pieces. The X stands for make this piece out of gold. So 14K X 1135.
    21. pops52 pops52, 6 years ago
      Awesome Mike!!!
    22. mikelv85 mikelv85, 6 years ago
      Thanks pops52 :) .... So much time and research for such a little thing, but well worth it !
    23. Trey Trey, 6 years ago
      Very cool find:)
    24. surfdub66 surfdub66, 6 years ago
      Cool write up mikelv85 !! Cool find too .. ;-)
    25. mikelv85 mikelv85, 6 years ago
      Thanks Trey and SD :) ....... I owe it all to you Surf. You got me on the right track !
    26. kyratango kyratango, 6 years ago
      Oh! Don't know how I missed it...
      Wonderful find and documentation, bravo!
    27. mikelv85 mikelv85, 6 years ago
      Thanks so much kyra :) ....better late than
    28. mikelv85 mikelv85, 5 years ago
      Another picture edit with photos of actual marks on this piece and the tiny split in the lid. :)
    29. mikelv85 mikelv85, 5 years ago
      I finally got to talk to George today also known as Mr. Vesta and he was able to positively ID this as a Gorham match safe. It was made just before the patent was issued so it's age is earlier than 1910. It's a very simple production piece so it really doesn't have any additional value other than the 14K gold content. At today's gold prices that's very nice. Most collectors avoid the monogrammed pieces and prefer the novelty, figural, or more ornate designs from around the world.
    30. pops52 pops52, 5 years ago
      Hey Mike, this was like the find of the century! I should be so lucky!
    31. mikelv85 mikelv85, 5 years ago
      Thanks pops :) was a once in a lifetime find for sure !

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