Cartier Cigarette Case, ca. 1910

Value (2004) | $7,500 Retail

GUEST:
My mom owned a little restaurant. It was a trolley car and, uh, our town is pretty small. And a man came by one day and didn't have any money for food. And he asked my mom if he could have breakfast for this piece, and my mom says, "How about three breakfasts?" So, he came three times in a row, and this is how I received it.

APPRAISER:
You grew up in this restaurant, so you remember this man?

GUEST:
Yes, yeah, I was about probably ten to 12.

APPRAISER:
Now the restaurant's gone?

GUEST:
Yeah, 1986, we had a devastating flood. The levee broke, really exactly right across the street from the restaurant. Took it right out.

APPRAISER:
Where did you keep this?

GUEST:
I kept it underneath my bed in a box. Underneath... It's been probably nine, ten years in that box. Never even taken it out to look at it.

APPRAISER:
You know what it is?

GUEST:
It's a cigarette box.

APPRAISER:
Right. It opens up, and then the cigarettes went in here. And there's another hinged part off on the side and you can see the striker, and that held the matches. They used strike anywhere matches, and it's a gold box.

GUEST:
Solid gold?

APPRAISER:
Solid gold. Oh, my goodness. And you know, it's pretty heavy. We tried to weigh it and I put it on the jeweler's scale. And it went off the mark, 'cause that only goes up to two and a half ounces. We weighed it on the silver scale and figured out that, just to melt it-- it's 18-karat gold-- would be about $2,000 in scrap gold.

GUEST:
Oh, my goodness.

APPRAISER:
And the first thing that struck me as soon as you put it down on the table was the wonderful design. It looks sort of like the Fabergé-style boxes from the turn of the century. Alternating stripes of blue enamel, and then this stripe here with a wreath-like design. And then there's this center plaque. That's platinum and diamonds.

GUEST:
Oh, that is diamonds?

APPRAISER:
And filigree, and those are real diamonds. They're rose cut diamonds. They're not quite as sparkly. They wanted a lesser sparkle, more subtle. And there's more diamonds here on the lip of the front of the box, where you would open it. And when I opened it, I noticed there was a little dimple on the lip of the box, which is a typical place for a French hallmark and we found it there. And the French made the most beautiful boxes.

GUEST:
Oh, my goodness.

APPRAISER:
And now, we looked at the lip along the front of the box here and there's where we discovered, in script, the signature of "Cartier, Paris."

GUEST:
Oh, my goodness.

APPRAISER:
So, the news just keeps getting better.

GUEST:
Yeah.

APPRAISER:
Now we have a gold box from the turn of the century. Cartier Paris, 18 karat gold and diamonds. But we have some issues with condition.

GUEST:
Okay.

APPRAISER:
There's some chips in the enamel on the top section here. There's some wear spots near the thumb rest, just from it being opened and closed so many times.

GUEST:
Mm-hmm.

APPRAISER:
I believe that if this was to be sold in as-is condition, it would achieve a price today of about $7,500.

GUEST:
Oh, my goodness.

APPRAISER:
As it is.

GUEST:
Mm-hmm.

APPRAISER:
It's possible to restore this box. And a master restorer could put back the enamel that's missing from it in the damaged sections. If you're willing to pay the money and have the right guy do it, it can be done beautifully. It might cost a couple of thousand dollars.

GUEST:
Okay.

APPRAISER:
But we're dealing in an issue where to restore it, and then sell it as a restored piece, as long as you disclose that, it's worth the investment to fix it. In restored condition, I think the collectors would be eager to buy it at a price of about $15,000.

GUEST:
Oh, my goodness. I never... I would have just thought $50, $75. It's what I really thought. Oh, my goodness. I'm shocked. Never thought of that.

APPRAISER:
So, you know, it pays to do good deeds for hungry men, I guess.

GUEST:
I guess, yeah. Yeah, now I have to go home and see what else she has in that box.

APPRAISER:
I think that's worth checking out. Yeah.

GUEST:
Oh, my goodness.

APPRAISER:
And you can't help but wonder who this man was. When you had a gold cigarette box from Cartier's at the turn of the century, you were somebody.

Appraisal Details

Appraiser
Edith Weber Antique Jewelry
New York, NY
Appraised value (2004)
$7,500 Retail
Event
Reno, NV (August 14, 2004)
Period
20th Century
Form
Case

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