There is something special about the look and feel of a velvet jewellery box. It has a sumptuous nature that makes anything put within it stand out. Velvet is the perfect background to showcase gems and precious metals, absorbing light so that all the viewer really pays attention to is the piece within, not the lining it rests on. The lustrous silk pile of fine velvet is what sets it apart from lesser fabrics, giving it the richness that makes it the perfect counterpart for jewellery. One of the best ways for anyone to showcase their prized jewellery is in a vintage velvet jewellery box. It combines opulence with a personal connection to history in a way that makes it the perfect choice for someone looking for a way to protect their jewellery with true elegance. Precious metals deserve a container that is worthy of them, and this is where the lustre and shine of a vintage velvet jewellery box really stands out among its lesser cousins.
What is Velvet
As a fabric, velvet goes back for centuries, and it has been a symbol of wealth for that entire time. While the term refers as much to the way in which the fabric is manufactured as to its composition, most velvet has historically been made from silk on a backing of either linen or cotton. In many ways, velvet resembles nothing so much as a plush carpet on a very fine scale. Silk thread is looped through a backing, creating a small field of loops much like a miniature berber carpet. The ends of the loops are then cut off to produce a soft pile of silk rising at right angles from the backing. The combination of expensive materials, particularly the silk, and the relatively wasteful method of production helped keep velvet limited to the rich for much of history. Improvements in textile production have led to the development of synthetic velvets, but none share the richness and depth of natural silk.
Brief History of the Jewellery Box
Jewellery boxes have existed in one form or another as long as people have worn jewellery. There have been metal ones, wooden ones, leather ones, and even velvet ones. For centuries, these boxes, just like most jewellery, were the exclusive province of the rich. Most people could afford neither the jewellery nor the boxes to put it in. The advent of the industrial revolution changed all that, as mass production brought both jewellery and jewellery boxes to a wider audience. While many of these boxes were made from wood or metal, some were velvet, though most of these were synthetic.
Velvet Jewellery Boxes
Velvet has two main uses in jewellery boxes, either in the lining, which is fairly common, or throughout the box, inside and out. In most cases, only the small boxes that hold a single piece of jewellery are likely to be velvet inside and out; it is most commonly used just as an interior lining for larger boxes. Regardless of whether it is used simply to display the contents, or as a cover for the entire jewellery box, the presence of velvet always adds a cachet to any jewellery box.
Velvet Ruching in Jewellery Boxes
Ruching is a technique that was most often used in the nineteenth century, particularly for the interiors of jewellery boxes. It consisted of laying down a layer of lightly padded, pleated or ruffled, velvet, or sometimes silk inside the box, especially inside the lid. Not only did it produce a very attractive lining, it also served a practical purpose, providing a place to store decorative pins and brooches by simply sliding the point through the pleats.
Choosing a Vintage Velvet Jewellery Box
One of the first things to remember when choosing a vintage velvet jewellery box is that all vintage jewellery boxes are unique. No two have exactly the same history, and so any prospective purchaser should take the time to pay attention to the details of the one specific jewellery box they are buying, rather than worry about generalisations that may not apply to that particular example. Everything from design to condition is likely to be unique. Still, even with a wholly unique item, there are some general rules which almost any buyer can benefit from following.
Consider the Material
The majority of vintage velvet jewellery boxes are made with silk. Very few are made from synthetic velvets, and those that are, are relatively recent. By paying attention to the material from which the velvet is made, the buyer can gain a greater understanding of the box they are buying which helps ensure a more satisfying and informed purchase. Knowledge is the greatest tool anyone can have when looking for vintage collectibles.
Pay Attention to the Condition
Velvet wears with age and use. An informed buyer is one who takes the time to determine the condition of the jewellery box before deciding to make the purchase. Some wear is likely to be present on almost all vintage jewellery boxes as a simple function of their age. The question for any buyer is what amount of wear is acceptable to them. For some buyers this amount may be very small, others may be more forgiving, as they might see the wear as part of the jewellery box's connection to history. External wear is more common than internal, so it is both more likely to occur and more likely to be noticed when it does. Still, as condition can have a direct bearing on the price, a buyer would be advised to check out the box thoroughly before buying it.
When looking to buy anything used, it always pays to find out as much as possible about the item one intends to buy. This means that a wise buyer is someone who looks at every piece of documentation the seller provides. They read all the fine print in order to help understand exactly what condition the jewellery box is in. These buyers also check out every image and photograph of the item that is made available to them. They look at everything from the outside, to the inside, and even the underside. Every detail matters.
Set a Budget
One of the most important things many buyers can do when looking to buy any vintage collectibles is to set a budget. The quest for the right vintage collectible can be rather like the thrill of the hunt, and many people find it easy to spend more than they expected out of excitement upon finding exactly the vintage velvet jewellery box they have been looking for. In some cases that can turn into just a little more, and just a little more again, until it becomes a lot more than the buyer expected. The best way to prevent this is for the buyer to set a firm budget and stay within it.
Buying a Vintage Velvet Jewellery Box on eBay
eBay is an excellent place to buy vintage velvet jewellery boxes. All you need to do is put your terms into the search box and watch the results pop up on your screen. Once you have the results in front of you, use the filters in the sidebar to narrow them down to just the jewellery boxes that fit your needs. You can filter by price range, ensuring that you only see results within your budget, material, and even seller location. Then, once you have your final or near-final list of jewellery boxes, you can use the sort tool to arrange the results so the ones you are most interested in are at the top.
After you have narrowed down your results, the next step is to determine which of eBay's many reputable sellers you wish to buy from. One of the best places to do this is their seller profile page, where you can see everything from their feedback to their location. You can also check to see if they have any other policies such as offering bundles with their jewellery boxes, and even if they might let purchasers who live in the vicinity pick up their velvet jewellery box in person.
Buying a vintage velvet jewellery box is both quick and easy for anyone able to spend a little time doing the necessary research. These jewellery boxes provide a tangible connection to history and the lustre of real silk, enabling them to perfectly set off the precious metals and gemstones of fine jewellery. Many vintage jewellery boxes have velvet interiors alone, while others, usually smaller jewellery boxes, have velvet on both the exterior and interior. Others may feature velvet ruching in the lining of the lid, which provides an excellent place to store decorative pins and brooches in its pleats. Whatever kind of vintage velvet jewellery box buyers may be looking for, it is a simple process to find the right one as long as they take the time to examine what is available. One thing that buyers should be careful with is their budget, as those who do not set a firm budget before they begin their search may find themselves spending more money than they expected, or planned. Still, a vintage velvet jewellery box is well worth the time, effort, and money.