In America, the word "casket" often is associated solely with coffins, those large boxes used to bury human bodies. "Casket" has become a "six letter word." However, if you spend more than ten minutes shopping for antiques in England, you'll hear the term "casket" used in its broader, original sense: a (sometimes ornamental) box used to hold jewels, jewelry or other precious objets. Most often, a casket is rectangular, small (or modestly-sized), with a hinged covering. It may or may not have legs. Caskets are intended to protect and present something of high value—which may explain why some Americans began to conflate the words "casket" and "coffin."
This bronze casket was made in the Teens or Twenties for "La Tausca," the Providence, Rhode Island, maker of very high quality faux pearls. At the time, cultured pearls were only just starting to become commercially available (Mikimoto, 1921). Prior to this—for thousands of years—pearls were the most rare and valuable of all "gemstones." La Tausca created a very realistic "indestructible" imitation pearl which they advertised as, "Perles des Indies," and "Splendidly lustrous and identical in appearance to a strand costing a thousand times as much." Until natural, cultured pearls became affordable and widely available, La Tausca filled a lucrative niche in the jewelry market.
La Tausca was brilliant at marketing their products. They built a profitable market selling $30.00 strands of graduated pearls as "The Classic" gift for brides to wear on their wedding days. Such reasonable splurges would come in a bronze, decorated box like the one shown above. But La Tausca also advertised less expensive necklaces (in plain boxes) for as little as $5.00—perfect for Saint Valentine's Day or Mother's Day. And those clever advertisements always informed the reader that La Tausca offerings ranged in price as high as $500.00, which certainly made a $30.00 string of pearls (in a handsome, bronze box), seem like quite a good value. Through brilliant marketing, La Tausca combined fine taste, timeless style, elegant presentation, and irresistible value and offered it to many middle class consumers who wanted‚—but could never have afforded—genuine, natural pearls.
This bronze box is studded with glass sapphire cabochons and punctuated with filigree bronze mounts. It is finished in a coppery bronze finish and is lined in its original cream satin. Though the pearls are long gone, the remaining casket remains perfect for protecting and presenting one's precious objet: pens, pins or pearls. Click on the photo above to learn more about it.
Though our Greenwich Village store is now permanently closed, LEO Design is still alive and well! Please visit our on-line store where we continue to sell Handsome Gifts (www.LEOdesignNYC.com).
We also can be found in Pittsburgh's historic "Strip District" at Mahla & Co. Antiques (www.mahlaantiques.com) or in Canonsburg, Pennsylvania at The Antique Center of Strabane (www.antiquecenterofstrabane.com).
Or call to arrange to visit our Pittsburgh showroom (by private appointment only). 917-446-4248