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Filigree Work Matchsafe

This is a matchsafe. It is dated late 19th century and we acquired it in 1978. Its medium is silver. It is a part of the Product Design and Decorative Arts department.

The first matches, invented in the mid-1820s, were dangerous, unpredictable, and could easily ignite—especially when held in one’s pocket against clothing that moved and created friction. Variously called matchsafes, match boxes, and vesta cases, these accoutrements were developed as early as the 1830s in response to a practical need for safety, taking the form of existing snuff boxes with the addition of a strike plate on the box’s base. By midcentury, the matchsafe popularized as a distinct accessory and a surface on which craftsmen could showcase their technical and stylistic creativity. Countless thousands of matchsafes created in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries in the US and Europe, with many designs patented and styles following fashion trends and tastes. Images included the sinuous women of Art Nouveau, advertisements, historic sites and travel destinations, historical and contemporary figures, animals, and many others. This piece uses the ancient technique of filigree, whereby a metal wire is bent, twisted, and shaped to create a composition, to depict a floral motif. The technical expertise required for filigree demonstrates the high regard with which many made and used these handheld objects until they were replaced with the disposable matchbooks and lighters commonly used today.

This object was donated by Carol B. Brener and Stephen W. Brener. It is credited Gift of Stephen W. Brener and Carol B. Brener.

  • Garland Pendant Lamp
  • silver-plated photographically etched stainless steel.
  • Gift of Artecnica.
  • 2007-38-1-a/c

Its dimensions are

5.6 x 3.4 x 1 cm (2 3/16 x 1 5/16 x 3/8 in. )

It has the following markings

No marks

Cite this object as

Filigree Work Matchsafe; silver; 5.6 x 3.4 x 1 cm (2 3/16 x 1 5/16 x 3/8 in. ); Gift of Stephen W. Brener and Carol B. Brener; 1978-146-615

This image is in the public domain (free of copyright restrictions). You can copy, modify, and distribute this work without contacting the Smithsonian. For more information, visit the Smithsonian’s Terms of Use page.

If you would like to cite this object in a Wikipedia article please use the following template:

<ref name=CH>{{cite web |url= |title=Filigree Work Matchsafe |author=Cooper Hewitt, Smithsonian Design Museum |accessdate=31 March 2023 |publisher=Smithsonian Institution}}</ref>