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Necessaire by Lacloche,  French c 1920

Ultra Vanities provides a window on a glamorous world of luxury and elegance and reflects the social and design history of the times

Press Office Contact: Amanda Stücklin
Tel: 020 7367 5913 Email:

Ultra Vanities -Bejewelled Make-Up Boxes from the Age of Glamour
The summer exhibition at Goldsmiths’ Hall
Friday May 31 to Saturday July 20, 2013

Admission Free

This extraordinary exhibition [Ultra Vanities – Bejewelled Make-Up Boxes from the Age of Glamour\] celebrates a unique, private collection of exquisite, finely wrought, jewelled and enamelled boxes that were all the rage in the 1920s through to the 1970s. The exhibition is open at Goldsmiths’ Hall from Friday May 31 to Saturday July 20, 2013 – Admission Free.

With early, minimal and elegant pieces from the 1920s shown alongside extravagantly adorned examples from the 1950s and later, Ultra Vanities provides a window on a glamorous world of luxury and elegance and reflects the social and design history of the times.

Aside from being stunning objets d’art the boxes were miracles of miniature engineering featuring tiny components all contained in a very small space. A powder compact, lipstick, comb, cigarette holder, mirror and occasionally a little note pad and pencil were typical components – everything a lady might need for a night out! Some also had special slip cases made in rich matching fabrics or a precious leather notably shagreen. Such essential accessories or nécessaires were created by all the major jewellery houses with status and refinement in mind - designed to rest glittering on cocktail bars and grand dining tables, to be coveted and admired for their preciousness and ingenuity.

The decoration on these works of art could range from sleek and functional to ornate and highly imaginative often involving the combined talents of various artists and craftsmen including goldsmiths, enamellers, stone-setters and engravers. They were remarkable feats of superior craftsmanship and often took months of intricate, painstaking work to create.

The materials used also provided the designer with infinite possibilities. A varied colour palette came in the form of precious stones encompassing every colour of the rainbow. These in turn could be used in conjunction with jades, mother of pearl, enamels, lacquer, tortoise-shell, and other materials which helped to contribute texture and additional decorative interest.

All the major art and fashion trends were reflected in the design and decoration and as with much of the jewellery produced during this period, were inspired by the Art Deco movement and the symbols and exotic motifs of the near and Far East.

The leading jewellery house including Cartier, Boucheron, Van Cleef & Arpels, Tiffany, Chaumet, Bulgari, Asprey, Graff and others in London, Paris and New York all produced make-up cases in their ‘house-style’ to accessorise their fashion clientele. With more than 200 gold, silver and platinum examples in the exhibition, Ultra Vanities will provide an excellent overview of the luxury design trends and styles of the period.

The curator of the exhibition Meredith Etherington-Smith, celebrated arts journalist and editor, who has written the associated book said: “This unique private collection marks and celebrates a precise era in the long history of cosmetics. As such it is interesting not solely because of the exquisite workmanship and imagination of these boxes, nor the miracles of miniature engineering that went into their interior fitments but in showing the power these boxes still have to evoke a certain golden era in the long history of human beauty and adornment.”

The exhibition will be staged in the principal first floor rooms of Goldsmiths’ Hall which will be transformed, for the occasion, into an elegant Parisian salon of the 1930s and dressed with historic touches and references back to an age of glamour.

Within a setting of refinement and femininity Ultra Vanities promises to be a top destination for the style and fashion obsessed this summer as well as anyone interested in precision design and masterworks of the highest craftsmanship.

Notes for Editors:

Exhibition partner, Guerlain, will be providing their signature perfume, Shalimar to fragrance the exhibition space to evoke the feeling of a chic-Parisian salon.

The associated book “Ultra Vanities – Minaudières, Nécessaires and Compacts” written by Meredith Etherington-Smith will be on sale during the exhibition priced at £39.95

[Ultra Vanities – Bejewelled Make-Up Boxes from the Age of Glamour\]
From Friday May 31 to Saturday July 20, 2013
Monday to Saturday 10.00am to 5.00pm

Goldsmiths’ Hall,
Foster Lane,
London EC2V 6BN
Tel: 020 7606 7010

Underground - St Paul’s, Mansion House, Barbican, Bank, Blackfriars
Buses - 8, 11, 25, 100, 242, 56, 521

For further information and images please contact:
Amanda Stücklin, the Goldsmiths’ Company, Tel: 020 7367 5913

This press release was distributed by ResponseSource Press Release Wire on behalf of The Goldsmiths Co. in the following categories: Entertainment & Arts, Women's Interest & Beauty, Retail & Fashion, for more information visit