Art Nouveau German Silver Pendant Match Safe Lily of the Valley

Friction matches were invented in the 1830s. On occasion, these sulfur-tipped matches would combust, due to the heat of friction, without any warning. Vesta cases, or matchboxes, were meant to prevent this explosion from happening by keeping the matches dry and safe. The idea of a vesta case stemmed from the snuffbox, and typically had a rectangular shape, with a flip-top lid, and a serrated edge at the base used to strike the match. Some pieces were built more extravagantly and held cigar cutters or a place for sovereigns.

This fabulous Art Nouveau German silver repousse match safe was handcrafted around 1900. This piece features a lily-of-the-valley motif on each side with a bottom rough edge, ready for a match to strike. This match safe is rectangular and measures 43.8 x 41.2 x 10.1 mm and it weighs 12.5 grams. It bears a maker’s mark and has been acid tested.

Most people of the Victorian and Edwardian eras carried a vesta made of tin, gunmetal, or brass. The upper class walked around with cases of silver or gold, much like this one. Matches weren’t just used to light a cigarette, they were useful for stoves, lanterns, pipes, and fireplaces. They came in different sizes and the smaller matches were carried around while the larger ones were kept at home in a larger vesta case known as ‘tabletop matchsafes’.

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Item ID: MEA22359VA

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