Filigree Work Matchsafe, late 19th century
The first matches, invented in the mid-1820s, were dangerous, unpredictable, and could easily ignite—especially when held in one’s pocket against clothing that moved and created friction. Variously called matchsafes, match boxes, and vesta cases, these accoutrements were developed as early as the 1830s in response to a practical need for safety, taking the form of existing snuff boxes with the addition of a strike plate on the box’s base. By midcentury, the matchsafe popularized as a distinct accessory and a surface on which craftsmen could showcase their technical and stylistic creativity. Countless thousands of matchsafes created in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries in the US and Europe, with many designs patented and styles following fashion trends and tastes. Images included the sinuous women of Art Nouveau, advertisements, historic sites and travel destinations, historical and contemporary figures, animals, and many others. This piece uses the ancient technique of filigree, whereby a metal wire is bent, twisted, and shaped to create a composition, to depict a floral motif. The technical expertise required for filigree demonstrates the high regard with which many made and used these handheld objects until they were replaced with the disposable matchbooks and lighters commonly used today.
Its dimensions are
5.6 x 3.4 x 1 cm (2 3/16 x 1 5/16 x 3/8 in. )
It has the following markings
Cite this object as
Filigree Work Matchsafe, late 19th century; silver; 5.6 x 3.4 x 1 cm (2 3/16 x 1 5/16 x 3/8 in. ); Gift of Stephen W. Brener and Carol B. Brener; 1978-146-615