Antique Opaline Boxes

Antique Opaline Boxes

Do you remember this post?  I was petitioning you to help me figure out what these boxes were.

Well, due to your great sleuthing, and a super helpful comments section (I love when the comments turn into conversation!), the mystery was solved, and I learned that the blue boxes are made from opaline.  A reader even sent me a link to this Pinterest board full of opaline boxes that is gorgeous!

I did feel mildly embarrassed that I did not recognize the material.  I mean, I bought an antique opaline chandelier a couple of years ago for our bathroom.  (do you like how I still need to patch the ceiling ??  Projects, projects!!)

In case you are wondering, I went back and forth on price with this Ebay seller, and we eventually agreed.  (Note: did you know you can do bargain on Ebay?  This especially works well with “Buy It Now” items.  If the price they have listed will not work for you, contact the seller and offer your best price.  I have bought tons of stuff this way over the years, and usually, it works like a charm.)

Aren’t the opaline drops pretty?

Made in France from the 1800’s to 1890’s, opaline is a semi-opaque, slightly translucent glass that was popular during the reign of Napoleon II and III.  The glass comes in white and varying shades of green, blue, yellow, and pink.  Yellow is said to be the most rare, and is the most difficult to find.  Although “opaline” is a term perhaps used too broadly, it should really only be applied to the antique French glass.  In the 20th century, Italy produced a glass that was similar, and in the 1950’s, opaline perfume bottles were  produced when there was a resurgence of interest in the material.

It’s fairly easy to tell the difference…


(p.s. the little keys slay me, I LOVE the ones that have those!)

ruby lane

ruby lane



cote de texas

cote de texas

See the difference?

Since the majority of antique opaline caskets or boxes are not marked, it can still be difficult to know whether the piece you find is valuable.  True opaline is hand blown, and therefore has no machine markings or seams.  Bottoms of opaline pieces may also be rough.   Some have gilt decorations, and many have bronze ormolus (the gold rim you see around many pieces where it opens), hinges, and mounts.

Of course, because of their age and rarity, they can (and usually are) very pricey.  Obviously, the more unique, the more expensive.

bergdorf goodman

bergdorf goodman

Ruby Lane has the best selection I have found.  I use this search.

screen shot of ruby lane merchandise

screen shot of ruby lane merchandise

You have to weed out some junk, but I regularly look on Ebay, and if you keep your eye out, you can find a few for a steal.  In fact, I scored one of my own.  I was SO EXCITED!

It came yesterday via RoyalMail from London, and I could hardly contain myself opening the box.  It lived up to all of my expectations and more.

It is the prettiest aqua blue color, and I j’adore the bronze ormolu and delicate hinge.  It is also much bigger than I imagined, about the size of a soda can, maybe a little more narrow.

I get silly when it comes to really old things like this that I can hold in my hand.  I wonder who it belonged to?  Why did she get it?  For her birthday?  For Christmas?  What did she put in here?  By the way, these boxes or caskets held a variety of things – from sugar to makeup to jewelry. They were also used as gift boxes.  Yes, please feel free to use one of these lovelies as a gift box for me at any time.

I love discovering new, pretty things!

Written by Grace

  • Frances @Improvement List
    Posted at 19:21h, 28 August Reply

    I love you comments about wondering who first owned the box. I am kind of like that with houses. I have lived in two “old” homes now, and I do think sometimes about those who were in these rooms before me!

    • Grace
      Posted at 00:01h, 30 August Reply

      Frances, I completely know what you mean! I think those same things about our house, too!

  • Tiffany
    Posted at 22:50h, 28 August Reply

    Thanks for the lesson on opaline! I was just as curious as you after you posted that first image awhile back, so pretty! Your jar is gorgeous.

    • Grace
      Posted at 00:00h, 30 August Reply

      Tiffany, thanks! I do love learning the history behind elements of design, I’m glad you do, too! 🙂

  • Alison
    Posted at 06:47h, 29 August Reply

    I LOVE the color of your box!!! It’s so pretty. 🙂

    • Grace
      Posted at 00:00h, 30 August Reply

      Alison, that is one of my favorite colors! 🙂

  • Elizabeth @ The Little Black Door
    Posted at 08:54h, 29 August Reply

    That is just beautiful. I love the soft aqua against the vintage gold. What a special piece!!

    • Grace
      Posted at 23:59h, 29 August Reply

      Thanks Elizabeth! It is even prettier in real life!

  • Emily
    Posted at 09:04h, 29 August Reply

    Your box is beautiful Grace, and I am also glad to know about opaline.
    Your chandy, oh my gosh, it is sooooo divine!

    • Grace
      Posted at 23:59h, 29 August Reply

      Emily, thank you! I do love it, but I’m trying to decide if it is going to stay in there. We shall see…

  • Julie
    Posted at 11:32h, 29 August Reply

    Grace, what a beautiful box you found! That chandelier is absolutely gorgeous, btw!

    • Grace
      Posted at 23:58h, 29 August Reply

      Julie, thank you! I’m loving my find. 🙂

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