We recently purchased this ladies gold compact, circa 1920, signed by Cartier. On the heels of their l’objet d’art movement at the turn of the century, Cartier went in a more practical direction in the 1920’s, and began to make beautiful items that were also functional. Vanity cases were a great way for fashionable women to discreetly carry their lipstick, powder and maybe a spare hairpin.
This particular vanity case is no bigger than a deck of cards. It has a small mirror and two compartments on the inside. It is 18k yellow gold with an Arabic geometric design in black enamel on the front and back and a playful animal print in black enamel on the sides. The clasp is made of red coral, which adds a splash of color for contrast.
This piece does show some wear and tear on the enamel, but its overall charm makes it easy to overlook the condition. In fact, we were thrilled to get it, since it is very difficult to find pieces like this that are signed by one of the great jewelry houses and are still intact. We find the print on the sides to be particularly interesting, since it is a relatively early example of Cartier’s famous spotted panther motif, which has become a classic for the brand.