This wonderful antique sterling silver repousse Vesta or match safe as this is commonly referred to, was recently acquired in Summit, New Jersey. Vesta is decorated on both sides with a blank un-monogrammed circular cartouche in which to inscribe initials if so desired.
There is lovely hand etched repousse designs which are found on both sides of this case. One side of the case is flat while the back is curved. On one side are two large coiled fern fronds and on the other small fern fronds decorate the corners with lavish scroll work and what appears to be petal or leaf-like designs surrounding the cartouche.
This particular Vesta primarily used to house matches comes with a measurement of approximately 1 7/8 inches in length by just shy of 1 ½ inches in width (not counting the loop, and a thickness of a ½ inch. There is no looseness to the hinge, it works perfectly pulls open and manually closes like the day it was produced.
On the bottom of this case is a rough wedge shaped area or striker, which would have been used to light one’s match when needed. This container has a permanent attached loop which will allow the wearer to use this as a pendant, add to your chatelaine, use as a watch fob or container for multiple purposes.
Piece weighs 25.84 grams and is fully hallmarked on the lip of this Vesta as well as on the inside cover. Starting with the maker’s mark ‘J.G’ which represents Joseph Gloster, anchor for Birmingham, Lion Passant sterling mark and lastly the letter ‘A’ representing the date for 1900. On the inside of the cover is also seen the lion Passant as well as the date stamp.
This match safe was very much enjoyed and used for most of the first quarter of the 1900s. Although this piece is fully functional it does have depression marks where pressure was applied to one side of this case for opening and closing purposes and a few creases found primarily on the top cover corners. All etching is in extremely nice condition and very crisp.
History: Joseph Gloster (J.G), Birmingham maker’s mark first registered in 1888. This particular mark was used from 1890 – 1906. This Jeweler was very well known and produced boxes, brushes, buckles, card cases, casters, cigarette cases napkin rings, pin trays, sovereign cases, tea and coffee service, trophy cups, vesta cases and watch display frames to name a few.
Definition: Vesta cases or match safes were small portable boxes made in a great variety of forms with snap shut covers to contain vestas (short matches) and keep them dry. These cases came into use around the 1830s and were produced extensively between 1890 and the 1920’s. Wealthier people had match safes made of gold or silver, while common folk had ones made of tin or brass.