Body adornments have been some of the earliest archeological finds, humans have always had an interest in dressing up. With that interest, comes the necessity of storage to keep our pretty odds-and-ends, one such item being the jewelry box. Here is some background in the history of the jewelry box, what to keep in mind when buying an antique jewelry box, and of course … some viable purchase options for you to pursue!
Jewelry boxes have existed since the ancient world, go to any history museum and you’ll likely find a Roman, Greek, or Egyptian container for jewelry pieces somewhere in their exhibits. However, fine jewelry was generally only accessible to the higher classes, those wealthy enough to pay for gems and rare metals, so jewelry boxes were not widely produced. In the post-Industrial era however, new materials made costume jewelry a possibility and the jewelry collection of the middle-class woman grew throughout the early 1900s. Today jewelry boxes run the historical range with the glass boxes favored in the 1940s, the Centurion styles more popular through the 60s, and plastic-based boxes all equally popular depending on personal taste.
Table of Contents
I) 1930s Jewelry Box
Material: Leatherette, silk, & velvet
Material: Celluloid plastic, satin & velvet
Material: Metal and fabric
This wonderfully 3D design features repousse roses seemingly attempting escape from the box. The box is in good condition, with only minor signs of wear, while the interior fabric is in excellent condition.
Material: Wood & paint
Material: Wood, brass, & fabric
Material: Brocade, metal, glass, & velvet
Features: Mirror inside
Delicate metal working and intricate brocade come together on this beautiful jewelry box. The interior features more metal working as well as a mirror and velvet lining. The box is in good vintage condition
Material: Wood & copper
A petite wooden box with engraved copper pieces nailed on—the edges feature a natural design while the top displays a woman’s face. The box is in good vintage condition, with a lack of patina on the copper that suggests it has been well cared for.
Material: Wood, glass, & paint
Features: Mirror & space divider inside
Material: Cast metal
Material: Plastic, silk, & velvet
Features: Velvet-lined band inside for storing watches or bracelets around
Material: Frosted glass
This powder jar is shaped like a curtsying girl in a flowing dress (jar base), there is no powder in it now, instead perfect for trinkets or jewelry! Is in in good vintage collection with no outstanding damage.
II) 1940s Jewelry Box
Material: Cedar wood & decoupage
Features: Mirror inside, lockable
This box features detailed carving work on the cedar wood body, with a country scene decoupaged on the top. The box has a bit of use, cracking on the lid and back legs missing, however the box is functionally fully usable and can even be locked with the right size of padlock!
Material: Wood, veneer, & brass
Features: Chose between a square or rectangle box.
Material: Shell, stone, & wood
Features: Lockable, key included
A carving of two elephants is surrounded by inlays of bone, mother of pearl, ebony, walnut, teak, and rosewood on the top of this box, the edges feature inlays as well. Inside the box is lined with a deep blue fabric, the hinges look newer than the clasp so it’s possible the piece has been renovated at some point since the 1940s, it’s a piece worth the upkeep efforts!
Material: Velvet, brass
Features: Technically lockable, keys missing though
This classy 1940s jewelry box has been renovated with brass stampings on the top. Inside the original silks and velvet are in excellent condition, clean and whole. The latch is functional and could lock but the original keys are missing.
Material: Leather & metal
Features: Includes original padlock, albeit keyless
Material: Glass, metal, paper, & plastic
Features: Glass inset inside box, divided in three equal sections
Features: Insets divide the inside storage into three spaces, one large & two smaller
Material: Vinyl & velvet
Features: Spinning ballerina style music box
This is the classic ballerina music box. It is usable for jewelry or manicure (five tools are included). The music box is functional, it winds up on the bottom of the box. Overall, the box is in good condition, with the fabrics looking clean and cared-for and the outside only showing mild aging!
III) 1950s Jewelry Box
Material: Lucite & velvet
Features: Lift-out tray with six storage compartments
Material: Rosewood, Lacquer, Brass, Jade, and Satin
Features: Traditional Chinese padlock, push key included!
This is an amazing box, from the jade inlay on top to the brass-reinforced corners and detailing to the traditional Chinese padlock, a style which is rarely found with the key intact like this one is! It has been well-cared for and is in excellent condition.
Material: Early plastic, likely celluloid or lucite
The era of plastics was beginning, this jewelry box emulates a pink and white marbled look on the exterior, with a velvet-esque lining inside. The box has a lift-up tray as well. In overall good vintage condition.
Material: Shell, velvet, & satin
Features: Shell design on the top adds a 3D impact to this box!
Material: Leatherette and velvet
Features: Clasp close & secret compartment
A classic-looking leatherette jewelry case with a lift-up tray (and a hidden compartment!), this piece is a lovely find. It is in overall good condition, with no major wear marks and a functional clasp.
Features: Clasp close
Features: 10 compartments, some with individual lids
This wooden box features a lift-out section with 10 compartments, plus space underneath to store larger items. The veneer is peeling and may be better off removed all together. The joinery and box itself is in good condition overall!
IV) 1960s Jewelry Box
Material: Plastic & fabric
Features: A lot of storage, four trays in total
This 1960s jewelry box features a large amount of storage, two pull-out drawers with dividers and a lift-top with a pop-up tray, adding two more decks of divided storage. There are large spaces for bracelets and necklaces, as well as smaller compartments for rings or earring sets. This box is in excellent condition with only minor signs of wear!
Material: Leatherette, burlap, satin, & velvet
Features: Eight storage compartments + ring storage inside
This leatherette-encased box is white on the exterior with gold edging and tree design, inside the case is lined with bright red satin and velvet. The bottom of the case (outside) is burlap. All of the fabrics appear to be in excellent condition, with minimal wear.
Material: Plastic, satin, & velvet
This is a lovely red velvet-lined plastic case, it is durable and yet has been well-cared for obviously, given the impeccable shape of the fabrics. The interior is set-up to facilitate storage of rings & earrings, possibly small bracelets.
Material: Wood & velvet
Features: Functional lock with original skeleton key
This is a charming box, stamped in gold with fleur-de-lis, royal crests, and lions. The interior is lined in pink satin that appears to be in good condition. There are some pen marks on the bottom of the box but nothing too visible!
Material: Vinyl, silk, & felt
Features: Compact travel size!
V) Victorian Jewelry Boxes
Period: 19th century
Material: Velvet, metal, & satin
Features: Tiny push clasp keeps the box securely closed
This darling little box is lined outside with a dark green velvet, inside the lid features a matching satin. It is in good shape, especially considering the care velvet requires. There are a few wear spots around the edges.
Material: Glass, ormolu, & silk
Features: Brand new silk cushion inside
Material: Metal & silk
Features: Hinged and lined
Material: Velvet, glass, silk, & brass
Features: Small mirror inside lid; lockable clasp, no key mentioned
Material: Wood & glass
Features: Both crystal walls and lid can be removed to use as an open container
Material: Wood, copper, & silk
This is a beautiful cube-shaped box with copper detailing, both floral and geometrical. The interior silk is in excellent condition for its age, still vivid and bright. This is a well-cared for, quality find!
Material: Metal & glass
Features: Mirror inside lid
Material: Silver & fabric
Material: Cedar wood, glass, fabric
Features: Mirror with etched flowers inside lid
Carved cedar wood designs, featuring florals and rushes, spread across this box while an image of an English cottage is inset on the center of the lid. The box is in good vintage condition, the mirror inside does show some aging but nothing unexpected.
Features: Queen Anne legs elevate this box in a way rare to jewelry boxes
This silver box is in good condition, no breaks or dents. The silver is tarnished, it could be either left as-is for the full antique effect or polished up and returned to its original state. The interior is lined in red fabric.
VI) Centurion Jewelry Boxes
Material: Wood, glass, & velvet
Features: Mirror inside & lift-out storage tray
This Centurion-style design features a velvet-lined storage tray replete with dividers and ring holders that lifts out to reveal more storage for larger items. It is in excellent condition, except a stain in the bottom of the box—a new piece of velvet is included to fix as the buyer sees fit.
Material: Wicker, wood, & fabric
Features: A pull-out drawer without dividers & a lift-top section for smaller storage
Material: Wood, felt, & paint
Features: Mirror inside, dividers create three compartments + ring storage
Material: Wood, metal, & fabric
Features: Single pullout drawer & a lift-top reveal 27 small compartments + ring storage
This piece is apparently a four-drawer chest, but in actuality it is slightly more useful: the bottom two drawers pull-out as one while the top lift to reveal the upper storage. The chest is in good vintage condition, with the yellow lining fabric unstained and still bold!
Material: Wood, glass, & fabric
Features: Two small compartments & ring storage at the bottom, swirl hangers at top
A floral etched glass design decorates the door of this tall jewelry cabinet. Inside, a round of hooks allows for plenty of necklace storage, with the bonus of lower compartments for smaller pieces such as rings. This piece is in good condition with no outstanding issues.
Material: Wood, metal, & fabric
Features: Two pull-out drawers & lift-up top (with mirror) reveal several compartments and ring storage, side door opens for hanging storage
Material: Wood, metal, & fabric
Features: Small mirror and hangers inside lid, two pull-out drawers for large storage, and nine smaller compartments + ring storage under lid
This box is a larger jewelry box for substantial collections, it is in good shape with only minor wear to the edges and corners. The interior golden velvet is also in good condition, no rips or stains, only mild indentions here and there where prior jewelry pieces were stored.
Material: Wood & fabric
Features: Two compartments, one large and one small, with ring storage
This is a classy piece, the oak grain parquet on the top of the lid adds a stylistic appeal to this box. It has a few marks of time, but the fabric interior is in good condition, and nothing is truly outstanding, it is in overall good condition.
Material: Wood, glass, brass, & fabric
Features: Two tiers of storage, upper divided into 12 small compartments, lower for ring storage. Mirror on inside of lid.
VII) Vintage Jewelry Boxes
Material: Wood, glass, and metal
Features: Two pull-out drawers for flat storage and a glass-fronted cabinet with hooks for necklace and ring storage
Material: Wood, veneer, & metal
Features: Four pull-out drawers + two side doors for hanging storage
A compact container with plenty of storage space, this jewelry box gives you plenty of options. It is in good condition, except one scratch across the top surface, but all the drawers & doors move smoothly for full functionality.
Material: Silver & velvet
A gorgeous wrought silver design winds around the exterior of this box, with stones inset on the top and sides. The design and wear suggest an earlier date than the seller has listed, it is a beautiful piece!
Material: Wood & felt
This unique little drawer was stained along the wood grain in vacillating stripes of red, gold, and purple to create a stunning effect. The drawer is smoothly finished, lined with felt, and in good vintage condition.
Material: Wood, glass, & metal
Features: Wind-up music box play “Rain Drops”
Material: Ebony, marble, brass, & velvet
Features: Purple velvet lining
Material: Silver plate
Features: Mirror inside lid
This silver-plated box made in Japan features exquisite lattice-work intermingled with roses and other floral pieces. The inside of the box is velvet-lined with a mirror. Hinges are secure, velvet is clean, this piece is in overall good vintage condition.
Material: Wood, glass, and fabric
Features: Lift-out tray & mirror inside lid
Material: Walnut & fruit woods, mother of pearl
Features: Key & lock, personalize by engraving custom message
Price: $212-238 (personalization costs extra)
Are Old Jewelry Boxes Worth Anything?
As is often the case, it’s a spectrum. The mass-produced jewelry boxes of the 50s on, often in plastics, are not going to be worth as much (although they are often in good condition if you’re more looking for an old-fashioned storage container), whereas intricate or unique designs, often from the 1800s to 1940s, are going to be worth more.
Brand names play a part in this too: Mele boxes are collectables because they were such a huge name through the mid-1900s; Centurion boxes are a very familiar design often with a sizeable amount of storage, they were copy-catted quite a bit so genuine Centurions are often more expensive. Boxes associated with specific jewelry brands, Gothic, Tiffany & Co., etc., are generally worth more than the box’s materials and age alone would garner.
In the end: the box’s design and associations will influence the value the most (as well as condition, of course).