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card cases

In the early 19th century etiquette dictated that upper class ladies and gentlemen should carry a visiting card, also known as a calling card, being a small paper card, about the size of present day business cards, printed with the individual's details, and often bearing an artistic design.

In 19th century England, the caller or the footmen accompanying the caller (if he or she was very important) would deliver the visiting cards to the servants of their prospective hosts, introducing the arrival of the card bearer.

Card cases solely for the purpose of holding visiting cards were introduced at this time and etiquette dictated that ladies should always carry their cards in a card case, although it was acceptable for a gentleman to carry his cards in the breast pocket of his jacket.

Reflecting the fact that card cases were mainly used by ladies, the designs were feminine in nature.

The early card cases were made of silver and leather with fine gilt tooling. The earliest French cases, c1760, were made of gold, silver and enamel, sometimes with ivory panels or beadwork. Eventually they were made in a variety of materials, including silver, gold, ivory, enamel, mother of pearl and tortoiseshell.

With the advent of popular tourism in the 19th century, card cases were made to depict places of interest and examples include silver castle-top cases, Scottish Mauchline ware and tartan ware and, from Ireland, Killarney ware.

Among silver card cases, castle-tops are the most valuable, with versions of Windsor, Warwick, Kenilworth and Abbotsford popular. Rare examples fetch much higher prices.

The most prolific makers of silver card cases were Nathaniel Mills, Yapp & Woodward and Taylor & Perry.

Most card cases had a lid that was hinged to one side, but there were a variety of other opening methods.

The use of visiting cards declined at the end of the 19th century, reducing demand for and consequently the production of card cases.

View further examples of Card Cases