Charlene Raddon: The History of Jewelry Boxes

In my latest book, due out December 15, a drunken young man breaks into the heroine’s house, eager to give her a jewelry box he bought for her. All my Thalia knows is that a man has broken into her home, and why would he do that unless he meant her harm? She retaliates by beating him with a baluster. In the melee, he drops the gift he’d brought her and quickly leaves. The next day, Thalia finds this present, a small bronze-like metal jewelry box. It isn’t until later that she learns who her invader was and that he was the one who left the little box behind.

Egypt was the birthplace of jewelry boxes. The styles and decorations on these boxes take many forms, some simple, some extremely elaborate. Traditionally speaking, any receptacle whose purpose is to contain jewelry and precious items associated with jewelry can be considered a jewelry box. No matter which term you use; jewelry box, jewelry casket or trinket box—all have the same use, and only differ in size and form.

During the Victorian era (1873-1901), jewelry boxes became a craze. Such boxes sometimes displayed small beautiful sculptures of children, flowers, animals, etc. They became popular when purchasing accessories rose up and fulfilled the tabletops of houses during that time. Some boxes were also decorated with illustrations of Kate Greenaway.


Some jewelry boxes were designed to commemorate a specific event or era. For example, at the World’s Fair in 1904, there is a variety of goods on offer including jewelry boxes. For the owners, the box may not have a big value. Meanwhile, in the collectors’ eyes, the boxes were valuable but many jewelry boxes ended up in the attic or basement. Collecting antique jewelry boxes has become a popular hobby today.


In the early 1900s, Art Nouveau was introduced in France and a madness over metal jewelry box began. These boxes were called coffins and were produced in large quantity. They were made of cast metal and given finishing touches such as gold, silver, or ivory. The ivory box was made by painting it so it tended to be more durable than other types of metal. The motifs that decorated them include flowers, birds, and a woman with her hair flowing like waves. Flower boxes were capitalized on the trend of Victoria and every kind of flower drawn implied a certain meaning.

Originally, jewelry boxes resembled treasure chests, hence the term ‘jewelry casket’. These were usually larger boxes, which would be considered slightly smaller than a chest, and were usually footed.


The Egyptians preferred gold jewelry often encrusted with precious gems and as such, a secure, yet often well decorated box or casket was required to keep such items safe. In Rome, jewelry was a status symbol, with only certain ranks permitted to wear rings for example. Fine brooches were used to secure items of clothing, and again, jewelry boxes were required for storage.

Until the Victorian era, owning jewelry was a rare luxury, and to have enough to need storage for it was a privilege bestowed upon only a few members of royalty and high society.


Fine jewelry became more affordable to the mass market after the industrial revolution, due to the reduction in cost once machine cutting of stones and metal was possible. Jewelry boxes and caskets therefore became smaller, due to the necessity for more middle-class families to have in their homes, while only containing very few pieces of jewelry.

Trinket boxes were also common in Victorian households full of collectables and pieces of interest. These were much smaller than traditional jewelry boxes, accommodating smaller items such as rings— and much fewer of them than is typical today.

At the turn of the 20th century, novelty jewelry boxes enjoyed popularity. This was due to the Victorian’s interest in filling their homes with decorative items of interest and intrigue, rather than simply owning that which was practical and necessary for daily life. Novelty boxes were created to look as though they are a statue or are in the form of something else— such as an Edwardian jewelry box created in the form of a miniature 18th century card table.

The variety of styles and sizes of antique silver jewelry boxes mean that any taste can be catered to—everything from minimal clean lines or ornate floral decoration are available on our site, depending on the personal taste of the owner and their home décor. Antique and vintage jewelry boxes are timeless gifts that take pride of place in any home, and that are appreciated by all jewelry lovers and collectors.

How about you? What kind of jewelry box do you have or maybe none at all?

Thalia is on sale now at

This is #7 of the Widows of Wildcat Ridge series. Up next is Eleanora by Pam Crooks.


Charlene Raddon: The History of Jewelry Boxes — 7 Comments

  1. Hi Charlene….Welcome back. I’m so happy to have you and I love your blog. It’s very fascinating and something I did not know. Boy, those Egyptians really did a lot for civilization! I just love jewelry boxes. I have a stone one (blue) that my husband bought when we first met that I wouldn’t take love nor money for. I just love it and it has a velvet bottom inside. Make yourself at home and get ready to tell people about your new book. I’m sure some will be by tomorrow. It’s unusual for me to put up a post on Sunday.

    Congrats on the release of Thalia! I love that name. I wish you tons of luck with it.

    • I’ve never seen a bronze one. I also have a tall wooden one with a few small drawers on one side and a place to hang the longer necklaces on the other. It takes up a lot of room though and I now have it sitting on a shelf in my closet. I can’t wait to read Thalia. I know it’ll be a fantastic story.

  2. This is a fabulous book and a great article. I would have thought jewelry boxes originated in Europe… I learned something new today! My jewelry box has a top compartment, 4 small drawers on one side and a glass door opposite the drawers. There is a spinning hook inside the glass door that holds necklaces or bracelets. My earrings I keep on a picture frame , lined with chicken wire, that you can hang them on. It displays them well and they never get tangled in other things. I wear mostly hook earrings not post. So they hang easily.

    • Hi Sandy……Thank you for coming over. I really appreciate it. I think we have the same jewelry box. Mine has a spinning hook and the drawers too. I’ve never thought of using chicken wire for earrings. I’ll have to steal your idea. I’m happy you liked Thalia. It sounds like a great story.

      Merry Christmas!

  3. I have a plan Jewelry book and mostly have junk in it. You know if you have a recite you need to hang onto for a while just stick in in the jewelry box so you know where it is or maybe stamps of something like that. I do have some jewelry in it though.

    • Hi Quilt Lady…….Ha, your jewelry box sounds like mine–a catchall for things I want to remember where they are! But we’re allowed to use them however we wish. I fear when I die, my kids will have some big laughs when they go through my stuff and they’ll be shaking their heads. Who cares? It’s mine.

      Merry, Merry Christmas to you and your family!