Metalwork Gallery Animations: Cigarette Box

Silver Cigarette Box, Joyce Himsworth, 1935

Click here to see the animation of how the cigarette box was made:Cigarette Box

This Cigarette Box was made in Sheffield in 1935 by Joyce Rosemary Himsworth (1905 - 1990). It is made from silver and lined with cedar wood. The cigarette box is decorated with a stylised image of a woman smoking. A finger can be slid under the slightly overhanging hand of the figure to lift the lid of the box open. The box perfectly captures the modernist style adopted by Himsworth during the 1930s.

The box would have been used on a table or desk as a container to hold cigarettes. Cigarette cases and other smoking accessories were essential for fashionable women during the 1920s and 1930s. Then, attitudes to smoking were very different to what they are today. An advice manual written in 1913, ‘Good Manners in a Nutshell’, even recommends that guests are provided with cigarettes at dinner!

The decoration of the woman smoking was achieved using a technique called niello. This is a type of inlay used on metalwork, particularly on items made from silver or gold. In this process the design is firstly engraved onto the object. The decorated area is then coated with a black powdered alloy of sulphur, copper, silver and lead. The piece is then heated until the alloy melts and becomes fused into the engraved design. When it is sufficiently cooled, the surface of the object is scraped and polished to remove the excess niello, leaving behind a striking black inlay in the engraved lines of the design.

To view other object animations click on the links below:

Ear Trumpet

Moustache Tablespoon

Pea Knife

Turtle Soup Tureen

To find out more about objects in the Metalwork Gallery, go to the Metalwork Objects in Focus, Millennium Gallery, Sheffield learning journey. To find out more about the Metalwork Gallery, go the the Metalwork in Sheffield learning journey.

Document icon Learning article provided by: Museums Sheffield: Millennium Gallery | 
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