Although visiting tickets later known as calling cards or business cards were popular in Great Britain during the 18th century, it wasn’t until circa 1835 that silver card cases were designed to hold them. The popularity of these silver card cases kept growing and it wasn’t until the mid 1860’s that their appeal began to wain. However, production still continued well into the 20th century.
Card cases were typically of shallow, rectangular form with lids which slipped over a long bezel. Although initially crafted in filigree silver with many being silver gilt their evolution was swift, the majority being either die struck, acid etched or engraved with highly decorated details.
Card cases can be found decorated in a wide range of subjects. These can vary from baring depictions of rural landscapes, hunting scenes, country houses, architectural British landmarks such as Castles and Cathedrals through to the more ordinary floral and foliate pattern decorated examples. The most well known topographical examples usually bare depictions of Windsor Castle, Westminster Abbey and The Houses of Parliament with for example scenes of Kings College Chapel in Cambridge and The Crystal Palace in London being rare in comparison.
Card cases from further afield
Although silver card cases originated from Great Britain, it wasn’t long before they also became popular in Europe. However, unlike the British card cases being predominantly produced entirely of silver, later European examples often incorporated micro mosaic or enamelled decoration and sometimes included a miniature portrait. Other countries such as Russian, India and China and Japan also produced some fine quality card cases leading into the 20th century. Personally, my favourite card card cases from overseas are those produced by the Japanese from the mid 1850’s onwards which usually incorporated beautiful craftsmanship in the form of shibayama. Shibayama was a technique named after Shibayama Dosho which involved silver or ivory items being decoratively inlaid with a variety of materials such as gold, silver, copper, coral, tortoiseshell or mother of pearl.
Collecting card cases
Good quality antique card cases are highly sort after and collected. The value of silver card cases are usually determined based upon the importance of the maker, the quality of decoration and the rarity of the subject matter. With regards to other types of card cases, the value is predominantly bases upon the quality of craftsmanship.
Notable British silver card makers
Notable silver card case makers include Nathaniel Mills, James Nasmyth & Co, Wheeler and Cronin, Henry Wilkinson, Frederick Marson, William Comyns & Sons, Alfred Taylor, Hilliard & Thomason, Crisford & Norris Ltd., E. J. Trevitt & Sons, William Dudley, Yapp & Woodward, Joseph Willmore and David Pettifer.
If you have any card cases you would like to sell or have valued, please contact Robin Newcombe, silver specialist at Grand Auctions, Folkestone, Kent for further details.