Weighing 7.7 pounds and measuring a generous 10.8 x 1.7 x 13.6 inches, “A matter of vanity: The art of the necessary” is a heavy and elegant 336-page encyclopedia of antique luxury toiletry cases in precious metals, diamonds, colored gemstones and other noble materials. Wrapped and filled with gold page edges, this super chic volume chronicles the artistically accomplished vanity cases of the 19th and 20th centuries. Published in 2019 by Rizzoli, this historically significant and comprehensive survey is interesting to study given that tiny ‘It’ bags and minaudiers from global luxury brands are selling around the world these days, some for thousands of dollars a day. model.

For those who may not be sure what vanity cases are and why they were once so popular, these cases, also known as ‘necessities’, were primarily made in Paris, the main fashion and jewelry center of the world. period, by Place Vendôme. jewelers like Cartier, Van Cleef and Arpels and Boucheron. Other great jewelers like Jean Trotain, Lacloche Frères and Fabergé, based in Paris, as well as American jewelers like Tiffany & Co. and Black Starr & Frost have also made very complex and gem-encrusted toiletry bags.

The vanity cases were the precursors of the It Bag. Everyone from established socialites to aspiring socialites, society matrons, courtesans and flappers wanted tiny, durable, and coveted, delightfully gem-encrusted cases to carry the essentials while they were in town. Toiletry bags often contained essentials such as money, keys and theater tickets, as well as cosmetics like lipstick, rouge and a mirror compact. If the lady smoked, a few cigarettes and a lighter may also have been packed inside.

A vanity case is smaller and thinner than a minaudière, which was invented in the 1930s and was large enough to hold opera glasses or binoculars. The ornate and technically sublime vanity cases in the pages of this book are made of shiny or highly textured precious metals, including platinum and gold. Various inlaid with lacquer, precious stones, lapis lazuli, mother-of-pearl, jade or brightly colored enamel, these cases required hundreds of hours of assiduous artistic work.

Because precious metal boxes offer a relatively larger surface area to design and decorate than most jewelry, the cases inside these golden pages display virtuoso, labor-intensive, and ultra-fine craftsmanship. -precious, which we hardly know today, apart from a few Europeans and Russians. workshops. Cleverly hidden hinges and stacked compartments create cases that resemble jewelry dreams, while functioning as charms.

Along with the compelling imagery in this book, the A “A Vanity Affair” features an incisive editing by an independent jewelry specialist, advisor and senior consultant with Lyne Kaddoura of Christie’s. While all the texts give a superb overview of the subject, the preface is to Francois Curiel, who happens to be President of Christie’s Europe and head of Christie’s global luxury division. The colorful introduction is written by David Snowdon, The deputy. President of Christie’s in Europe, the Middle East, Russia and India.

Page after page, “A Vanity Affair” sparkles with contributions from Pierre Rainero, who is the very skilful Image, Style and Heritage Director of Cartier, more Catherine Cariou, the former asset manager at Van Cleef & Arpels. And then thereby Laurence Mouillefarine ‘s writes, as well as clever pieces by author, art historian and jewelry curator Diana Scarisbrick. Other contributions come from Vivienne Becker, London-based jewelry historian, journalist and author of over twenty books on the history of contemporary jewelry and jewelry design.