- Fashion and Beauty
History and Designers behind Vintage Ladies Compacts
Compacts for the Elegant Woman
Glamorous vintage compacts - ready to accessorize your handbag or be put on display in your collection.
What to Know about Collecting Compacts
Each week I receive at least one email asking me which compacts are best to collect. I always recommend collecting those you love. What good is a collection you're not really fond of? You would soon grow tired of the dusting and cleaning, they would be packed away somewhere and your investment of time and money would not be well spent. Stop and think about what attracts you to a particular compact. Is the shape, the color, the possible future value - or maybe all those reasons? If you're still not sure (and even if you are), I suggest investing in knowledge first. Buy books about compacts and read them - don't just look at the pretty pictures! When I was first starting out I had a compact book for a full year before it occurred to me to actually read it! I was so taken with all the photographs that I just didn't go beyond that. Once I started reading, the real learning began. I was no longer limited to knowing that one particular compact had more value than another - I began to understand why.
When you have decided what you want to collect, start hunting! Always try to buy in the best condition you can afford. Check latches to make sure they work well. Check for greening (corrosion) of the metal. Check the mirror. Some age spotting and clouding is inevitable with some of the old compacts. If it is a rare compact you might not be able to find again and the price is right, I'd go for it. If the compact is enameled or hand painted and there are large chunks of color missing, you may want to pass. Rarity is the key in this case too.
Quite often compact companies manufactured compacts in series. Two that come to mind are Kigu's "Bolero" series and Stratton's "Waterfowl" series. Owning each piece of a particular series certainly adds to the value of your collection.
To sum up - collect what you love, educate yourself and take good care of your collection. You own a little piece of the history of women.
Glossary of Compact Terms
Annulus: Flattened ring; circular plate with a central circular aperture
Art Deco: Artistic style prominent in the 1920s and 1930s. Took its name from L'Exposition Internationale des Arts Decoratifs et Industriels Modernes (International Exhibition of Decorative and Modern Industrial Arts), held in Paris in 1925. Influences included Art Nouveau, Ancient Egyptian architecture, and Cubism
Art Nouveau: Artistic style using curvilinear motifs derived from nature. Popular from circa 1890 to 1925 and frequently revived
Bakelite: Phenolic, acid based plastic, invented in 1907
Beauty Box: Vanity case containing cosmetic items other than powder and rouge, such as eye makeup
Butterfly Wing: Amazonian Blue Morpho Butterfly with wingspan of 9" used for costume jewelry and cases
Cabochon: A highly polished dome-shaped stone with no facets
Cabriole: An elongated S-shaped support
Cameo: Gem shell or stone with design or figure cared in relief against a background of a darker or lighter color
Carry-All: 1950 and 1960s term for a rigid case containing powder, lipstick, and feminine beauty aids
Cartouche: Decorative, framed space in which initials can be engraved
Chinoiserie: European decoration with a Chinese motif
Circa: Approximate date an item was manufactured
Compact: Small portable case used to contain face powder, usually comes with a mirror
Convertible Style: Interior adapted for either pressed or loose powder
Cream Powder: Or CrÃ¨me Powder. Face powder combined with cream or oils to make it adhere to the skin. Used from the 1950s.
Engine-Turning: Technique by which regular patterns are cut into the surface of a metal object held in a lathe
Faux: Fake or false
Flapjack: Term used in the 1930s and 1940s for slim powder compacts. Cookie: to 2.5" diameter. Baby: 2.5" to 3.5" diameter. Standard: 3.5" to 5" diameter. Super: 5" to 6" diameter.
Godet: Metal pan used to contain pressed or cream powder
Inro: A small compartmented and usually ornamented container that is hung from a Japanese obi (sash) to hold small objects such as medicines, perfumes or cosmetics
Kamra: Case resembling early collapsible camera cases
Limoges: Translucent enamel of colorful portraits or scenes on copper that originated in Limoges, France
Minaudiere: Rigid metal, usually box-shaped evening bag with compartments for powder, lipstick, rouge, mirror, coins and cigarettes. The name is supposedly inspired by Estelle Arpels - cofounder with her husband of Van Cleef & Arpels. Her brothers used to say that no one could "minauder", or charm, in society like their sister Estelle.
Motif: In the style of or resembling
Necessaire: Bolster-shaped version of the minaudiere with fewer compartments
Party Case: Another term for "Carry All". Used in the 1950s and 1960s
Patch Box: Small round compact with a set-in lid, akin to 18th century box used for beauty patches or spots
Pendant Case: Compact or vanity case suspended from a chain or ring
Pli: A make-up tube containing powder and a puff brush
Portrait Case: Picture frame feature in compacts and vanity cases for snapshot insertion
Pressed Powder: Compacted dry face powder, contained in godets. Used during the 1920s and 1930s
Reticule: Small handbag that is held in the hand or carried over the arm
Sifter: Fine mesh or gauze, mounted on a rigid frame, which fits tightly into the powder-well of a compact; allows access to small quantities of powder while retaining the majority of the powder within the well
Sifter Box: 1920s and 1930s term for a compact for loose powder
Vanity Case: Rigid portable case designed to accommodate cosmetics and personal items
Wedgewood: Fine English pottery best known for a white cameo-like relief ware on a tined matte background
CARING FOR YOUR COMPACT
Cleaning your compact: Remove powder using a small dry toothbrush. The perfume in face powder can discolor the lacquer used on the metal. You can also brush the sifter and puff, shake them or tap them against a hard surface to remove powder. Swans down puffs can be washed and dried carefully. Other puffs should not be washed as they can and will disintegrate.
I have had several people express some concern about using a vintage compact that has had powder in it previously. I clean each compact thoroughly. Because of hygienic concerns, I have now also started to clean all previously used sifters and powder wells with an antibacterial agent. You can do this yourself by cleaning the sifter in a mild antibacterial dish soap solution or liquid hand washing agent. Be careful with the sifters as the mesh can tear from the rim.
Goo Off or alcohol can be used to remove adhesive labels from metal or glass.
Mirrors can be cleaned with Windex or a similar glass/mirror cleaner sprayed onto a cloth - not directly on the mirror.
Do not wash your compact by immersing it in water as water will leak behind the mirror and damage the reflective coating.
Compacts can be buffed and polished with a good quality silicone polish and a soft cloth.
Replacing missing stones: This can be done easily. Be sure to match the original color and size. Replacement stones are available online at jewelry supplies stores and are also sometimes available at craft stores. Hypo-cement is my favorite glue for replacing stones.
Replacing missing or broken mirrors: This is a tricky subject. If you have a very valuable antique compact with a broken mirror, I would advise leaving it alone. You could devalue your compact with a replacement mirror. If you want to replace a mirror in a compact you use, please read the following information.
The mirrors in vintage compacts were much thinner glass than is available today. Trying to put in a modern mirror can distort your compact case or break the hinge. That leaves you with the only two options I can think of: pirate a mirror from an old unusable compact of the same size and shape or find a reputable glass dealer with a supply of vintage mirror on hand.
Once you have your replacement mirror you can get to work. Some compact mirrors are "framed in". If yours is done in this style, study how the frame is closed and whether or not you are able to open it yourself. If not, search for an agreeable jeweler who will do this for you. (Warning - they are hard to find!) Mirrors that are just glued in can be loosened with judicious use of a blow dryer to soften the glue and a dental pick to pry it loose. Hypo-Cement can be used to glue your new mirror in place. If you are going to offer a compact with a replacement mirror for sale, please be sure to disclose this to the potential buyer.
Replacing Vintage Puffs and Sifters: If you are using the compact for your own personal use, any puff will do and can be easily found in stores that sell cosmetic supplies. Trying to find a vintage puff and sifter that go with your compact can be trickier. You will usually have to pirate a puff and sifter from a like compact that is unusable.
Stratton compacts are still being made (though not of the same high quality). I have searched long and hard to see if they have replacement puffs available. I have not found a source. I also have had customers in England ask where they could find Stratton puffs. That shot down my hope that Stratton puffs were available in the UK if only I could find the right store!
Storing your compact: Before storing your compact, be sure to remove all powder. Remove the sifter and puff. Vintage compacts are best stored in acid-free tissue paper or a film-front bag
History of Stratton Compacts
Stratton compacts were designed and produced in Birmingham, England by Laughton & Sons Ltd. from 1923. Some of the earliest Stratton compacts carry the name "Stratnoid", which was also the trade name for the company's knitting needles. In 1940, four of their five factories were destroyed during World War II. By 1946, they were up and running again. In 1997, this company was taken over by Cork International. Although they are still making compacts with the Stratton name, they are no longer manufactured in Britain. The compacts I am carrying were all made prior to 1997
Vintage Mother Of Pearl Floral Compact - Mascot Great Britain
Petite Princess Style Stratton Vintage Compact, Courting Couple
Designers behind the Compacts
BEHIND THE COMPACTS
Info on Compact Manufacturers
Annette: Can find no definitive info.
Baird-North Co: Providence, Rhode Island. Manufacturing compacts as early as the 1930s.
Birks: Established in Montreal, Canada on March 1, 1879. In 1887 started a jewelry factory upstairs over the shop. Called the "Tiffanys of Canada". Specialized in Sterling Silver. Earliest registered hallmark under the Birks family name is dated 1564.
Bliss Bros. Co: United States. Making compacts in the period between 1930s to 1950s.
Boots: Boots the Chemist was established in Nottingham, England in the early part of the 1900s. Signed "Boots" in script or a "B" in script. Still in business.
Charbert: New York. Selling compacts in 1930s. Probably did not manufacture their own cases.
Charles of the Ritz: American cosmetics house located in NY, NY.
Ciner: United States jewelry manufacturer. Making compacts during the 1950s.
Clarice Jane: Division of Elgin American.
Colleen Moore: Cosmetics house. Probably started mass producing affordable compacts in the 1940s.
Coro: American costume jewelry manufacturer. Probably produced a limited range of compact designs beginning in the 1940s.
Coty: Paris, France early 1900s. The Coty trademark was registered in France on 9-15-14 by Francois Coty for Airspun Face Powder and compact container with white and gold powder puffs on an orange background. This design was a collaborative effort between Rene Lalique, famous glassmaker, and Leon Bakst, designer of stage sets and costumes for the Ballet Russe. Also a New York division.
Cyclax: England. Manufacturing compacts as early as the 1920s.
Debbie J. Palmer: Contemporary compacts. Debbie J. Palmer spent 12 years as the Vice President of Design at Estee Lauder before starting her own production company in New York, New York. Victoria's Secret, Bloomingdales, Nordstrom's and Neiman Marcus are among the distributors.
DFB Co: Manufacturing vanity cases as early as the 1920s.
Djer-Kiss: M. Kerkoff of Paris, France. Exported to the United States in the 1920s. Had Kerkoff's Parfum Shop on the Champs Elysees in Paris. Compacts are usually small and silver in color. Very collectible.
Dorset Fifth Avenue: United States. Manufacturing compacts between 1930s to 1950s.
Dorothy Gray: American cosmetics house. Probably began mass producing affordable compacts in the 1940s. Taken over by the Playtex Co.
Dubarry: England. Manufacturing compacts as early as the 1920s.
Eisenberg Original: American costume jewelry manufacturer. Limited number of designs in compacts probably beginning in the 1940s. Very collectible.
Elizabeth Arden: American cosmetic house. Probably began mass producing affordable compacts in the 1940s.
Elgin: United States. Manufacturing compacts as early as the 1930s. Started out as the Illinois Watch Co. of Elgin, Illinois in the 1880s. Manufactured compact cases for many of the famous cosmetic houses. In 1950, commissioned Salvadore Dali to create a compact. The result was the "Bird-in-Hand" which featured a powder compartment, pillbox and lipstick. It came in three finishes - satin bronze, silver and sterling silver - all with 14K overlay on the wings. In 1963, after a very long labor dispute, the decision was made to close the Elgin American plant and move to Japan.
Elsa-Peretti: Contemporary compacts.
Enessa: England. Manufacturing compacts during the 1940s and 1950s.
Estee Lauder: Contemporary compact manufacturer. Has been manufacturing compacts for over thirty years from classic goldtone styles to a wide variety of figurals, often encrusted with Austrian crystals. Her first compact was the Youth Dew golden rope solid perfume compact with a faux turquoise stone in the center in 1968. Creates approximately 25 new designs per year.
Evans: United States. Established as the D. Evans Case Co. in North Attleboro, Mass. in the early 1920s. Manufacturing compacts as early as the 1920s. Famous for their mesh bottomed compacts and their guilloche enamel. At some point in time, they became a division of Hilsingor Corp. of Plainville, Mass. Disappeared after 1965.
Evening in Paris: Part of the Bourjois line. In 1930, International Perfume Inc. of NY decided to market all its products under the Bourjois label. Evening in Paris and Springtime in Paris were two of their very popular lines.
Faberge: Prestigious jewelry house. Compacts were probably individually commissioned.
There is also a Faberge perfumer. New York circa the 1930s.
Fiancée: Part of the Woodworth line prior to 1930, but after 1930, International Perfume Inc. of NY decided to market all its products under the Bourjois label.
Flamingo: England. Established by the Fulmen Engineering Ltd in the early 1950s. Manufactured compacts for only a few short years.
Flato: Paul Flato opened shop in New York City in the 1920s as a jewelry designer. He is credited with designing the jewelry worn by Katherine Hepburn in "The Philadelphia Story". He made compacts in the 1940s and 1950s which were whimsical in design and now very collectible. The majority of his compacts also came with a lipstick which matched the compact.
Foster & Bailey: American. Turn of the century. Exquisite enameled vanities.
Georg Jensen: New York division. Georg Jensen was a very famous Scandinavian silversmith.
Girey: United States. Manufacturing compacts somewhere between the 1930s and the 1950s. Famous for their "camera" compacts.
Gloria Vanderbilt: Not the Gloria Vanderbilt of jeans fame. This was Mrs. Reginald Vanderbilt - nee Gloria Morgan. Opened a NY salon from July 1946 until October 1947. Mainly a parfumerie.
Gucci: Well known name in fashion. Producing contemporary compacts.
Gwenda: Gwenda was the trademark of Hussey-Dawson of Birmingham, England. Began manufacturing compacts circa 1930. Famous for their butterfly wing and foil compacts. At the time they were made, they were actually lower end compacts. Now, very collectible and rather high end. I was told by a British customer that the old Gwenda manufacturing plant is now being turned into an office building.
Halston: Well known name in fashion. Contemporary compacts.
Harriet Hubbard Ayer: New York. Trademark name registered by Vincent B. Thomas in 1907 for his cosmetics. The original Harriet Hubbard Ayer was a woman who manufactured Lady Recamier's Facial Creme in the late 1800s and also wrote a popular beauty advice column. HHA was in business at least through the 1950s.
Hattie Carnegie: American costume jewelry manufacturer. Probably did a limited range of compact designs sometime in the 1940s or 1950s.
Helena Rubenstein: American cosmetics house. Probably began mass producing affordable compacts sometime in the 1940s.
Henriette: Trade name for the New York division of the Wadsworth Case Co of Kentucky. Manufactured compacts during the 1940s and 1950s. Famous for their novelty compacts such as the 8-ball compact.
Hingco VAnities Inc.: United States. Manufactured compacts sometime between the 1930s and the 1950s.
Hobe': American costume jewelry manufacturer. Probably had limited number of compact designs sometime in the 1940s to 1950s.
Houbigant: France. Famous perfume house. Exporting compacts as early as the 1920s.
Innoxa: England. Manufacturing compacts as early as the 1930s.
Jay Strongwater: Contemporary compacts.
J.M Fisher Co: Attleboro, Mass., United States. Manufacturing compacts as early as the 1920s. Very Art Deco and Art Moderne case design. Very vivid colors. Each design had a name. Fragile enamels. Rarity may increase as the enamels deteriorate.
Jonteel: Cosmetics house. Probably began mass producing affordable compacts in the 1940s.
Katherine Baumann: Contemporary compacts.
Kigu: The first Kigu compact was created by Gustav Kiashek, a second generation master silver and goldsmith from Hungary. By the early 1920s, he had a factory in Budapest to produce these compacts under his firm's tradename - Kigu. The name Kigu was derived by KI-ashek, GU-stav. His son George came to England in 1939. The Kigu Co. was established by George Kiashek in Great Britain in 1947. Advertised their product as "compacts of character". Excellent compacts - beautiful, well engineered with quality materials. Made their very collectible "flying saucer" compact in 1951. Stopped making compacts in the late 1950s and manufactured costume jewelry. Taken over by the AS Brown Co. (Mascot) in 1977 on the death of Mr. Kiashek.
K & K: United States. Kotler & Kopet. Manufactured compacts sometime during the 1930s to 1950s.
Klix: Klix is the trademark of D. Harris & Co. of Great Britain. Began manufacturing in 1950s. Famous for their transparent plastic compacts with a simple print on lid.
Lady Esther: American cosmetics house. Another company that probably began mass producing affordable compacts in the 1940s.
La Mode: United States. Ripley & Gowan Co. Manufacturing compacts as early as the 1930s.
Langlois: Cara Noma and Shari were two of its compact lines.
Le Rage: Great Britain. A division of the Evans Components Co. Manufactured compacts only during the early 1950s.
Lilly Dache: From what I can tell, Lilly Dache was a designer who was commissioned by different cosmetic houses to design compact cases.
Lucien LeLong: Paris. Cosmetics house.
Lucretia Vanderbilt: No definitive info
Madelin Beth: Contemporary compacts.
Margaret Rose: England.
Marhill: One of the leading manufacturers of mother of pearl compacts.
Marie Earle: A cosmetic house. Had their compact cases manufactured by another company.
Mascot: Trademark of AS Brown of England. Manufacturing compacts as early as the 1940s and signed "ASB". Began using the Mascot tradename in 1950. Famous for compacts shaped as handbags which were done during the 1950s. Absorbed the Kigu Co in 1977. Continued producing compacts into the
How to Care for Your Stratton Compact
DATING YOUR STRATTON COMPACT:
* If your compact has a self-opening inner lid, it was made after 1948.
* If your compact is convertible or takes cream powder, it dates from at least the 1950s
* If your compact has the famous "Compact in Hand" logo on the inner lid, it was made from 1950 to 1970. The "Compact in Hand" mark indicates the compact has a self-opening inner lid. This was patented in 1948 and is unique to Stratton compacts. It helped prevent damage to fingernails
See the About Compacts page for tips on caring for your compact and replacing missing parts, etc
My thanks to Juliette Edwards who wrote Miller's Powder Compacts - A Collector's Guide. This is a wonderful little book full of information and where I got my information about Stratton. This book is for sale in most places books are sold. Highly recommended. Click on the Amazon shopping cart on my front page of www.bitzofglitz.com -this will direct you to Amazon to purchase this book.
Great Stuff on Amazon
My websites for vintage Compacts
Your great grandmother, your mother or even you have a special story about how you received your compact.