The Romance of Antique Boxes

April 18, 2016

The Romance of Antique Boxes

Antique Victorian Style Jewelry and Dresser Boxes made of opal ware were at the height of their popularity from 1890 to 1910. The C.F. Monroe Company was one the largest producers of this type of glass.  Charles Monroe opened his first business in 1880 in Meriden, Connecticut. They did not produce their own glass, but purchased blanks from France from Mt. Washington Pairpoint as well as other American glass houses.  He then hired artists to hand paint each blank. Beautiful jewelry and dresser boxes were made of all shapes and sizes, as well as vases, biscuit jars, pin dishes and others. The majority of his work fit into three styles: Wave Crest, Kelva, and Nakara.  Many pieces were never signed.  C.F. Monroe believed his glass “spoke for itself” and didn’t need a signature.  The more elaborate the decoration the higher the price. The hinged antique boxes were by far the most popular. The larger boxes made to hold collars and cuffs I find to be my personal favorite.

Back when clothing was all handmade and men wore undershirts to protect their dress shirts from use, the collar and cuff area took the most abuse and would wear out the fastest.  To save money, shirts without collars and cuffs were produced and the collars and cuffs were purchased separately. Shirts could then be washed by themselves and the cuffs and collars could be stored in the boxes until their use. Once factories started making clothing, everything became cheaper and there was no need to have separate collars and cuffs, or a place to store them.  Starting in the 1930’s these beautiful pieces became obsolete.  These romantic boxes are a unique piece of American history and can be enjoyed on any dresser today to hold jewelry, favorite letters, or just as decoration. Isn’t it wonderful we no longer have to worry about collars and cuffs?

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