Art Deco Box Buying Guide

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Art Deco Box Buying Guide

An Art Deco box can be an exciting purchase, giving the buyer unique insight into the mind of a designer of the early twentieth century and a view into how people of that time functioned on a day-to-day basis. It was a time that celebrated industry, machinery and technology, and this was reflected in the themes presented in Art Deco.

The term Art Deco describes a visual art and design movement that started in France in the 1920s. The movement was extremely popular during the 1920s and 1930s, but after the Second World War, in the late 1940s, its popularity began to wane. The term Art Deco was not coined until the 1960s and it is now the universal term that the movement is known by. Art Deco is a term that most people will have heard, but many may not know the details of. This lack of insight can make a period of art seem intimidating and out of reach. This need not be the case. The Art Deco period produced so much quality pieces of art that it should not be overlooked.

This guide will attempt to give buyers the knowledge that they need when it comes to purchasing an Art Deco box. Antique boxes were made for many purposes, and are used today for the same or new purposes. This guide will go into the history of Art Deco and the box, mention some different types of Art Deco box and bring up some factors that should be considered before purchasing an Art Deco box.

History of the Art Deco Box

The box is an item that is used for many different functions by people in all sorts of occupations and situations. It is a place for keeping valuables, collectables, photographs and jewellery and was originally designed to store things safely and away from harm. Over thousands of years of human development, the box itself became something that could be considered precious. Certain Art Deco boxes fall into this category, and there are a variety of Art Deco boxes that symbolise the movement as a time of style, industry and innovation.

The Art Deco movement is known for its use of geometrical forms, symmetrical lines and angular structures. All of these tenets can be seen reflected in the boxes that were made during the Art Deco years. The use of vibrant colours, jarring images and the female form are some of the major motifs of the Art Deco movement. It was a movement that encompassed all aspects of life, from art and design to media advertising, from film posters to product packaging. Nearly everything designed and produced during the Art Deco era was made within the movement’s ethos, and the box was no different.

Discover the Art Deco Box

Art Deco boxes can be used in a variety of different ways. They can be used for storing cigars or jewellery, and can also be used a piece of decorative art in its own right. Art Deco was a huge movement in its day. Every aspect of design, in all range of products and architecture and art, was influenced by what was happening in society. Although the popularity of the movement did die down in around the 1940s, there has been a recent resurgence and certain Art Deco pieces and boxes are in more demand than ever before. The Art Deco movement was known for its use of angular forms and symmetrical and geometrical shapes. Box makers of the time would incorporate all of these styles into their boxes.

An Art Deco box may be purchased for a number of reasons. Some buyers will purchase one to use functionally, to store valuables or day-to-day items in. Others will see an Art Deco box as too precious to use and will display it. Buyers may see an Art Deco box as a sound monetary investment, as the box may increase in value.

Influences on Art Deco Box

This section will briefly mention and describe some of the artistic movements that directly influenced Art Deco.




Often consisted of reducing forms to their geometric equivalents


A derivative of Cubism. Traditional forms of expression were shunned in Futurism, quick and dynamic movement was often represented.


Natural forms were often distorted. Intense and expressive colours were used.

Materials Used in Art Deco Boxes

Boxes can be made from a variety of materials, sometimes combining one or two, including:




It has a silvery veneer and it is malleable and ductile.


One of the first synthetic plastics ever created, it is brittle and heat resistant.


Brownish, richly hued wood. This is a strong and heavy type of wood.


Has a glossy, shiny veneer. Can be highly decorative but easy to break.


A hard and strong, dark grained wood. Can be extremely valuable


A type of plastic used a replacement for ivory. It is highly flammable.


A dense, black wood. Extremely strong.


An extremely strong and durable wood. Used as early as the 9th century by Vikings.

Types of Art Deco Box

There are many different types of Art Deco boxes, and they come in a range of sizes, designs and finishes. Below is a list of some of these boxes. In most cases the name of the box will indicate what the box is used for.

  • Jewellery Box
  • Trinket Box
  • Cigarette/Cigar Box
  • Pill box
  • Cufflink Box
  • Sewing Box
  • Chocolate Box
  • Egg Cup Box
  • Cutlery Box
  • Money Box
  • Biscuit Box

Factors to Consider When Buying an Art Deco Box

Before purchasing an Art Deco box, it is advisable for buyers to consider some of the following factors:

  • Ask Questions - buyers should ask the seller for any information that they feel will help them make the correct purchase. This is a useful part of the buying and selling process, and sellers should be happy to help. Sometimes the photo and description provided might not be enough information to base a purchasing decision on, and the buyer should ask for as many details about the Art Deco box’s origin and history as possible.
  • Condition - The condition of an Art Deco box will significantly affect its value. Study the photos provided closely for any marks, scratches or blemishes.
  • Placement - Buyers should work out what they are going to do with the box. If they are going to display it decoratively, buyers should consider if the Art Deco box will fit with the existing decoration of a particular room.

Typical Features of an Art Deco Box

Boxes can come in many designs and for many purposes, however, what will separate an Art Deco box is its design characteristic. The following provides a list of some of the typical features of an Art Deco box.

  • Female Form - The image of a woman is used throughout Art Deco pieces. Some veneers will have striking images of females on them.
  • Bright Colours - As with the content of its paintings and prints the colours of Art Deco boxes can be bold a vibrant.
  • Geometric Shapes - Lots of Art Deco boxes were made with clean lines and geometrical angles.  This could be considered to be a part of the wider message of Art Deco.

How to Care for an Art Deco Box

The definition of an antique is an item or piece of art that is over a hundred years old. Boxes from the Art Deco period are on the cusp of being antiques, so they should, therefore, be given the special care and attention that is afforded to antiques.

Always handle the Art Deco box very carefully. There may be damage that is not visible to the eye so it is advised that any functioning parts (e.g. a hinge) are handled as rarely as possible.

It is advised that an Art Deco box is dusted regularly with a soft cloth. If the Art Deco box is wooden, it should be polished twice year with a beeswax polish. This polish should be left on for twelve hours and then gently rubbed off. However, best care methods will be determined by the materials the box is made from and what type of finish it has.

Accessories for an Art Deco Box

Here is a short list of some accessories that will help to keep an Art Deco box in good condition.

  • Soft Cloth - Good for wiping off dust or dirt.
  • Beeswax Polish - The only type of polish that should be used on antique wood.
  • Cabinet - If the Art Deco box is being displayed for decorative purposes, having it in a glass cabinet is a good idea.

Finding an Art Deco Box on eBay

Once you determine the type of Art Deco box you want to purchase, visit the Antiques portal on eBay, click on the 'Art Deco' sub-category, then click on the ‘Boxes’ sub-category and start searching item listings. The Categories list on the left-hand side of the eBay page helps to narrow the search.

Searching for an Art Deco Box on eBay

Search eBay listing titles for specific words when shopping for an Art Deco box. For example, to find an Art Deco Cigar Box type ‘Art Deco Cigar Box’ into the search box, and then click the Advanced button to customise the results. Also visit eBay’s Search Tips page for more advice on searching for an Art Deco box with keywords. If you can’t find the exact Art Deco box you want, try shopping eBay Stores.


The Art Deco movement was creative, brave and innovative. Owning an item from this period is like owning a piece of modern history. The Art Deco box is a beautiful example of functionality and decoration, and it can provide an item that can be used for day-to-day purposes. Understanding the history, origin and use of the box will help make the best purchase. Once you have collected this information, you can buy an Art Deco painting safely and securely on eBay.

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