Sterling Silver and Enamel Compact by Adie Bros, 1932
Our attention was immediately captured by the combination of gleaming silver and glossy enamel displayed by this delightful powder compact! In our view, it exudes the sophisticated glamour of the Art Deco era, showing the small, neat shape and geometric-style decoration that were regular features of ladies' accessories during that period. The compact casing is made in sterling silver, with hallmarks clearly visible on the base. The set of hallmarks allows the compact to be dated to 1932, and they provide the maker's name, which was Adie Bros Ltd, of Frederick Street, Birmingham. We understand that the company was in existence from the very early years of the twentieth century until the 1960s.
We think this Adie Bros item is particularly eyecatching not only for its enamelling, but also for its scalloped-shaped outline. This curving edge of shining silver is emphasised by the glossy black enamel that borders it, and further contrast is provided by the flashes of red enamel which form a virtual 'V' shape at the centre of the lid. Please note that the red is a slightly brighter and more vibrant shade in reality, than is depicted in the images below. Pushing against the silver thumb catches at the front of the compact reveals an interior containing a mirror and a distinctive mechanism for dispensing loose powder. The frame for the mirror is sterling silver (denoted by a small Lion Passant mark at its right side), whilst the mirror itself is polished metal, rather than glass; this is a feature we have come across in other compacts of the 1930s.
The mechanism within the compact base is also of its period, and is usually referred to as the 'Tap-Flap' mechanism. This method consists of a dished outer plate with a circular aperture in the middle. On the underside of the aperture is a spring loaded plate which acts as a seal for the powder well; when tapped, the plate would release a small amount of powder before resealing the well. In this instance, the Tap-Flap section has the gleaming appearance of chromium, and can be removed by inserting a fingernail between the edge of the plate and the silver lower casing, and then gently easing the plate upwards. In the days when the compact saw practical use, the powder well could be topped up with loose powder, before the plate was pressed back into position. Interestingly, when we have previously seen this mechanism in other 1930s compacts, they have tended to show the inscriptions 'World Wide Patents' and 'Pat 247962' (the latter being a reference to the original UK patent, granted in 1926). However, in this case, the inscriptions on the plate read 'PROV. PATENT' and 'LIDO SIFTER'. We wonder therefore whether this compact from 1932 contains a slightly different version of the 'Tap-Flap' design, as the reference to a patent still at 'provisional' stage may indicate this? We have not come across the name 'Lido Sifter' before now, and have yet to discover any information about it. The mechanism incorporated within this compact would not have required a separate powder sifter, and its powder puff has not survived.
Manufacturer: Adie Bros Ltd
Country of manufacture:
Product ref: C197 - SOLD
Very Good. Whilst it has been used during its lifetime, this petite, yet striking, compact has survived in very appealing condition, and its enamelled sections are particularly impressive. Both the black and red areas are intact and undamaged, and they have a smooth and glossy finish. We can see very little evidence of wear or scratches to the enamel, even when using a magnifier. The scalloped silver edging shows a crisp and gleaming finish. Although the base has some general scratching, and there is a small mark in the silver on the left, we do not feel that these detract from the overall well-preserved and attractive condition of the compact. The silver hallmarks on the base are clearly visible. The compact interior is bright and shining, showing only a little dark spotting to the silver on the mirror frame and near the hinge. The polished metal mirror and the chrome 'Tap-Flap' sections reveal only minor evidence of age or wear in the form of superficial scratches, but they too retain a gleaming appearance. The compact has held powder in the past, but this has been removed, and only a very fine residue remains within the well. The simple catch on the front edge of the compact closes firmly and securely. In our view, this compact appeals on various levels; these include its powder-dispensing mechanism, its scalloped outline, and of course the lid decoration with its strong Art Deco influence - we see it being admired and appreciated in the future, as part of a collection of fine compacts!
Material: Sterling silver, metal and enamel
Measurements: Diameter 50mm