Boudoir Items Make Great Collectibles

Antiques and collectibles offer mysteries to figure out, which is one of the reasons why people get hooked on the treasures.

Many times an antique enthusiast starts out by simply being curious and wondering just what is the meaning of an unusual trinket that they inherit or come across.

One of my favorite antiques is boudoir items. These pretty things combine my interest in fashion, art and make-up and include things like perfume atomizers, dresser trays, compacts and complete dresser sets.

I recall that when I was a child, my mom displayed an antique dresser set that included a strange item known as a hair receiver, which was an archaic part of the brush, comb and hand mirror set that provided a place to stash hair when one cleaned the brush.

Strange to me, but since ladies often made hair jewelry and memorial pictures during the Victorian age, the hair was used in clever ways back then.

Other uses for hair included making pincushions, small pillows or hair ratts of small hairballs that would add volume to your hairdo much like the current synthetic drugstore bumps that create a similar look today.

A boudoir item that I researched recently because I didn’t know its significance is a small black and silver compact that is distinctively art deco in style.

The 1™ by 2 and 7/8-inch metal and plastic container includes an inside mirrored lid and is divided into two narrow compartments. I kept it from my mother’s things after she died but never knew what it was or why she kept it.

The mark on the bottom reveals the biggest clue to its past stating: MARVELOUS, Richard Hudnut, Made in U.S.A.

When I looked this up, I discovered that Richard Hudnut was a cosmetic and perfume manufacturer who achieved great renown and lived from 1855-1928. He was such a good businessman that he is recognized as the first American to achieve international success in his field, according to Wikipedia.

I also discovered the same art deco design was used on a variety of his compacts and makeup under the name of Marvelous Makeup. Online sites such as Etsy, Amazon and eBay each have images of his treasures, with descriptions that matched my little case.

Amazon even had a 1936 vintage ad for my item, which turned out to be a mascara case. The black and white ad was selling for around $44 and described the product as “eye-matched makeup.” It seems you could pick a selection of products based on your eye color.

The advertisement states: “Buy this new makeup by the color of your eyes … and be lovelier for his eyes … tonight!”

I had fun unraveling this mystery and now enjoy my little art deco box even more and have carefully polished it and displayed it on my bedroom mantle.

Small treasures like compact cases can create a bit of female drama when displayed in a traditional or vintage style home. Like most antiques, collecting a category of treasures offers a entertaining hobby, too, since you learn about the past and develop a good eye.

The best way to develop a good eye is to examine antiques, study and handle them. That’s the only way you get a feel for quality.

So is you are looking for an opportunity to do just that, don’t forget today is the final hours of the annual Oglebay Insitute Antiques Show which is open until 4 p.m. today at Wilson Lodge. You can handle many wonderful treasures there and learn the facts from more than 50 friendly and reliable dealers.

For comments or suggestions on local treasures to be featured in Antique of the Week, Maureen Zambito can be reached via email at or by writing in care of this newspaper.


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