Masterpieces are born by accident. During one of the secular receptions, Charles Arpels witnessed how Florence Jay Guld, the wife of American railroad tycoon Frank Jay Guld, hid lipstick and a lighter in a Lucky Strike metal cigarette case. The production of decorative cosmetics in the early 20th century brought great profits and the demand rushed in, but the need to constantly adjust her makeup or her hairstyle created a lot of discomfort for a secular lady. Jay Guld’s ingenuity pushed Arpels to the idea of creating a precious case for a woman’s necessary trifles. The concept turned out to be brilliant!
In 1933, the house of Van Cleef & Arpels invented the minaudière — a metal evening bag with many sections inside, in which, depending on the equipment, there were: a powder, a pocketbook, a pill box, a cigarette holder, a lorgnette, a lighter, a bonbonniere, a lipstick holder, watch and a retractable tortoiseshell. The inside surface of the lid was completely mirrored, allowing its owner to follow her appearance without going off to the ladies’ room. Charles Arpels noted that the novelty turned out to be flirtatious, like his sister Estelle, and therefore nicknamed the accessory “minaudière” (fr. behave affectedly).
The invention was small in size, could fit easily in the hand, and, despite the noticeable weight, very soon replaced evening handbags made of leather and fabric. After all, the case suited most outfits and was much more functional than its predecessors. Each object was strictly in its allotted space, even after furious dances and roaring succussion. And the pill box was one of the most sought-after items (no need to think that the pill and powder in it were painkillers).
The minaudière was made of gold or styptor — a tin alloy with silver, which was especially common during and immediately after the war, when precious metals simply did not suffice. Lids were decorated with guilloche and laquer, and the clasp was often set with Mystery Set corundums as well as diamonds. The original works created by the French house in the 1930s are still a desirable subject for collectors. They are sold well in the UK, Europe and the USA. Moreover, in America, these pieces are not only collected, but also actively used. The cost of the item directly depends on its state, but in general it rarely exceeds $30 thousand. The minaudières are beautiful, multifunctional, and can easily be adapted for modern needs — for example, instead of a pocketbook you can place business cards, while a cigarette holder can be replaced with a stylus. The only thing that can’t be placed inside is a smartphone, but even this modern problem can be solved by contacting an experienced specialist.