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Hey lady, ya gotta light?

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Art Nouveau1042 of 3246Bohemian Grenn Iridescent Vase, Circa 1900  My "Garden Plaque"--Information Wanted!
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    Posted 6 years ago

    (10 items)

    Here's another beautiful item I couldn't resist, this week. It's a Vesta, or match safe-- or I think it is, but it has no striker strip. It is also supposed to be sterling, but there are no identifying marks on it at all. It's in great condition, and very clean. The same design is on front and back. The lady is smoking a cigarette (scandalous!), and is surrounded by poppies (what IS in her cigarette?). She has the kind of hairdo that always reminds me of Princess Leia or Princess Ozma! It measures 2" x 1.25", without the hinge and bail. I would appreciate any info about its age, type of metal, or maker. And is it even a Vesta, without a striker strip?? Thank you.

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    1. Windwalker, 6 years ago
    2. PostCardCollector PostCardCollector, 6 years ago
      Lovely art nouveay piece--so attractive!!!
    3. Jewels1900 Jewels1900, 6 years ago
      That it has no strike is odd, but it looks of the period. It's most likely German in the French style (Nouveau), if so, it's probably some form of silver mix. Maybe as low as 800 or as high as 935. The smoke'n lady is very reminiscent of european poster art of the period. I've never seen one on a vesta before.

      PS, vesta's got their name from a popular brand of matches. The matches got their name from Vesta, the goddess of the hearth.
    4. EmmaPeel, 6 years ago
      Thanks to all of you, especially Jewels1900. I had made the connection with the goddess Vesta (all by myself! I felt so clever!), but didn't know about the brand of matches. I'll leave it as a "mystery" a little longer, just in case someone knows more. The "smoking lady" reminds me of a story my Dad told, about, I believe, a female professor at University of Tennessee, when he went there. She was considered scandalous. For one thing, she smoked in public. One day, a lady who disapproved of her public smoking, said "Why, I'd rather be caught in adultery than be seen smoking in public!"; and the professor said "Oh, my dear! Who wouldn't!!"
    5. EmmaPeel, 6 years ago
      I blew my lines! The lady said "I'd rather COMMIT adultery than be seen smoking in public!". This is why I don't tell jokes very well.
    6. Celiene Celiene, 6 years ago
      The image is after Mucha. This is cigarette case for a chatelaine. See the loop there on the side? The match safe may have been a cylindrical case. These flip tops often held stamps, but since she's smoking, I'm pretty sure it was for ciggies.

      Google: chatelaine cigarette smoking lady nouveau image

      You will see several.
    7. Celiene Celiene, 6 years ago
      It could have been a match safe for strike anywhere matches, too! She could have struck them on the bottom of her delicate shoe!
    8. Celiene Celiene, 6 years ago
      Here's another flip-top cigee chatelaine case.
    9. EmmaPeel, 6 years ago
      Thanks, Celiene, for the links. Mine is much too small for cigarettes; BARELY big enough for a matchbook, maybe. I think it's definitely for single matches, but the lack of a striker still puzzles me. You'll notice, the first link you gave, to a similar Vesta, has a striker strip, but no hanging loop.
    10. Efesgirl Efesgirl, 6 years ago
      Does the interior have a gold wash?
    11. EmmaPeel, 6 years ago
      No, just silver colored. Why?
    12. Efesgirl Efesgirl, 6 years ago
      Normally, vesta cases have a gold wash inside to protect the interior from corrosion from chemically active match heads. I've never seen a vesta case without a striker plate, either. Since there are no marks anywhere to be found, I suggest taking it to a jeweler and have it tested for precious metal content. Most vesta cases have the hallmarks on the thin inner edge where the top closes.
    13. Efesgirl Efesgirl, 6 years ago
      After more research, I'm now sure that this isn't a vesta case - it's one of these:

    14. Efesgirl Efesgirl, 6 years ago
      Not a vesta case in regard to smoking, I forgot to add....
    15. EmmaPeel, 6 years ago
      Thanks for the suggestion, Efesgirl. I had sort of assumed that it was not from the UK, since it has no hallmarks. What you suggest would tell me what it's made of, but not who made it, or when, or for what use. The seller said she had it for years, and had seen an identical one up for sale which was described as being sterling. I looked at a lot of Vestas on eBay, and not one of the sellers mentioned a gold wash. You'd think they'd boast about that.
    16. EmmaPeel, 6 years ago
      The item to which you shared a link is similar, as it's the same size, and has a similar hanging loop. However, it is referred to as a Vesta, and it has a striker strip.
    17. Celiene Celiene, 6 years ago
      The link Esefgirl gave DOES show a Vesta for matches - the last picture shows the strike plate on the bottom. Someone just added the chain, I think. It's WAY too short to be used as a march safe!

      If your is a match safe, it would be for single wood matches, not a matchbook. What are the dimensions? Remember - ciggies these were self rolled, so you could roll them any size!
    18. EmmaPeel, 6 years ago
      The dimensions are given in my post. :)
    19. Efesgirl Efesgirl, 6 years ago
      I take eBay with a grain of salt these days.


      The lack of a gold wash inside and lack of a striker tells me it's not a vesta case for matches but rather a vesta case style locket with a different purpose. I have not yet found any vesta cases without a striker base. In order to find out if it's silver, you would have to have it acid tested.
    20. EmmaPeel, 6 years ago
      Yes, Efesgirl, anyone with a brain should. I frequently give them a heads-up when I see them saying something that can't be right. Usually, they are grateful. EBay's policies are tough on American sellers trying to make a dime, and I'd hate to see them get a bad rating and have an unhappy customer just because of an honest mistake that I could have cleared up. :)
    21. Efesgirl Efesgirl, 6 years ago
      I've done that, also. It's amazing how many people have less than no clue about what they are selling. I stick to the flea markets and second hand shops.
    22. Celiene Celiene, 6 years ago
      It could be a stamp case. Women carried stamps all the time because they were always writing notes to correspond. There used to be THREE mail deliveries a day in the US in cities. Up until the 1950's mail came two times a day, and up until the 70's three times a day to businesses in cities..

      But a stamp case would not have a woman smoking. Google chatelaine stamp case nouveau.

      Here's a vesta that is barely bigger than a quarter.
    23. Efesgirl Efesgirl, 6 years ago
      The only other thing I can think of this being used for is to hold a few hand rolled cigs, since there is no striker on the bottom. If that's the case then there wouldn't be any need for it to be gilded inside.
    24. Celiene Celiene, 6 years ago
      OK - wow I never knew so much about matches! They used to come with a folded piece of sandpaper as a striker for a while. That would explain the no strike plate on this.

      "n 1832, William Newton patented the "wax vesta" in England. It consisted of a wax stem that embedded cotton threads and had a tip of phosphorus. Variants known as "candle matches" were made by Savaresse and Merckel in 1836.

      Chemical matches were unable to make the leap into mass production, due to the expense, their cumbersome nature and inherent danger. An alternative method was to produce the ignition through friction produced by rubbing two rough surfaces together. An early example was made by François Derosne in 1816. His crude match was called a briquet phosphorique and it used a sulfur-tipped match to scrape inside a tube coated internally with phosphorus. It was both inconvenient and unsafe.[14][15]

      The first successful friction match was invented in 1826 by English chemist John Walker, a chemist and druggist from Stockton-on-Tees, County Durham. He developed a keen interest in trying to find a means of obtaining fire easily. Several chemical mixtures were already known which would ignite by a sudden explosion, but it had not been found possible to transmit the flame to a slow-burning substance like wood. While Walker was preparing a lighting mixture on one occasion, a match which had been dipped in it took fire by an accidental friction upon the hearth. He at once appreciated the practical value of the discovery, and started making friction matches. They consisted of wooden splints or sticks of cardboard coated with sulphur and tipped with a mixture of sulphide of antimony, chlorate of potash, and gum, the sulphur serving to communicate the flame to the wood.

      The price of a box of 50 matches was one shilling. With each box was supplied a piece of sandpaper, folded double, through which the match had to be drawn to ignite it. He named the matches "Congreves" in honour of the inventor and rocket pioneer, Sir William Congreve. "

      WHY the name Vesta stuck is not explained...
    25. EmmaPeel, 6 years ago
      Okay, now I have another piece of the puzzle, just to complicate the whole question. I was polishing something else, and took the opportunity to polish the Vesta a little. I had noticed that the hanging ring looked a little sloppily soldered, but then I forgot about it. I have now discovered that the ring fixed to the Vesta isn't very neatly soldered on, either. I'm pretty sure either there was NO hang attachment originally, or it broke off and someone replaced it; either with the same one, or a different one. How'd you like THEM apples?
    26. Jewels1900 Jewels1900, 6 years ago
      There's no doubt this is a vesta case for wax matches.

      Vesta cases made in the UK will usually have the interior lip hallmarked and better quality ones may be gilt (gold) inside.

      This one is continental, probably German because there was a major jewellery & smalls manufacturing sector in Germany during this period which made items like this for export around the world.

      It's most likely to be 800 or 835 which is lower than sterling silver which is 925. But it could be as high as 935 or it could be a base metal. I don't think it's plate.

      It was made for a man (a woman never would have had this smok'n' lady design) and most likely to be worn on a double Albert chain. This is why most vestas (but not all) have the ring on the side. One side of the Albert chain was clipped to the pocket watch and went in one pocket, the other side was clipped to a vesta, sovereign case or something else and went into a second pocket. A T bar went into a button hole and often a fob (like a little medal) was hung from the middle. (Ladies also wore watch chains but wore them differently.)

      Gilding an interior was used for salt cellars. The salt would eat away at the silver, the gilding prevented deterioration. This is not a problem with wax matches.

      Stamp cases (often call envelopes), cigarette cases and calling card cases are all a different size to vestas. But you could buy sets of matching vesta and cigarette cases so you can find the same design on both.

      I have a few vestas, both continental and english (one with original matches!) and a stamp case. When I was younger, I used to love collecting all the little things that could hang or attach to your Albert chain (or Albertina). I have little pencils, seals, charms, tassels - all sorts of nice little objects. Different objects have meanings, pigs for good luck, acorns to protect you from lightening etc.

      I hope that helps. PS, I was only worried about the lack of a strike because designs like this (but without smoking lady) have been reproduced. But I don't think that's the case with yours.
    27. Celiene Celiene, 6 years ago
      Jewels1900 - WOW - thanks for the education!!
    28. Jewels1900 Jewels1900, 6 years ago
      FYI ...

      Celiene, the cigarette case you link to is much later and not a chatelaine in the proper sense. A chatelaine was the equivalent of a victorian tool belt for women. It has all sorts of house hold type objects on it (keys, stamp envelopes, memo pads, pencils, tape measures etc) but never any tools for smoking. It may have had a vesta case but the loop would be on the top of the case. You can also find sewing chatelaines and dance chatelaines.

      Efesgirl, your link is to the type of vesta that was made in Germany during this period. Your link is to one that is more in the german style, whereas this one is more in the French style. They would be contemporary and could even be made by the same manufacturer.

      Hope that helps.
    29. EmmaPeel, 6 years ago
      (Forgive me if this appears twice--I left a comment, and it seems to have disappeared!) I think we all learned a lot today! I am very grateful for all the research and effort you kind folks went through to help me! Three cheers for jewels, celiene, and efesgirl! My mystery is solved!

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