Victorian ladies, always hot on protocol, would blanch at the idea of calling on an acquaintance unannounced. Instead they would leave a visiting card for their prospective host, and retire to their own home to await an invitation.
These ladies of leisure needed a stylish way to keep their calling cards pristine, and the result was the card case. Men’s cases are smaller than ladies’, designed to slip comfortably into the pocket.
The earliest cases are made of silver; Nathaniel Mills of Birmingham was the most prolific maker, although Joseph Wilmore and Taylor & Perry are also notable names. Ivory, papier mâché and tortoiseshell were fashionable too, and Japanese-made cases in malachite, coral and lacquer work are particularly sought-after now. Early cases had hinged or slip-on lids, but later examples opened like a pocket book.
Ivory case with silver cross banding, £185; mother of pearl and silver aide-mémoire, £325; leather case with metal clasp, £28; pressed tortoiseshell case, £215; Indian Sedeli work and wood gentleman’s card case, £75, all available from Chantry Fine Art.