Once upon a time an essential element of every woman’s bedroom and boudoir was a vanity set. The name explains it all and I’m sure most of you already encountered a vintage vanity set at your grandma’s home. In case someone doesn’t know what a vanity set is, here comes a quick explanation.
A vanity set is a part of a dressing table made specifically for storing makeup, cosmetics, jewelry, and accessories. This is literally a girl’s best friend, everything you need should be there. It features a large hand mirror, hair tools, makeup brushes, and boxes where you can store all your trickles.
Besides their practicality and functionality, antique vanity sets are so pretty and rich with details, that their charm will turn even the most boring interiors into a luxurious space. In this article, you’ll learn a little bit about their history, their worth, and how to choose a perfect one, so read on!
What Could You Find In A Vintage Vanity Set?
What we know as a makeup organizer today, was a vanity set for girls back in the day. The main difference is that it looked more classy and neat than the ones we have now. The first vanity set was made in the Victorian period, and soon every girl had her own specimen.
Depending on the size vanity sets were placed in small boxes or larger cases similar to today’s cosmetic cases and men’s briefcases. The point was that an owner can pack her vanity set in a sturdy bag and carry it around while traveling, without risk of damage or loss.
As I said, these sets were made for storing beauty products, so naturally, they came with a variety of different tools that are common beauty aids.
- Hand mirror (sometimes even two a smaller and a larger one, made from different materials);
- Powder jar with a powder puff;
- Parfume atomizers (that cute little glass bottle with the pump you’ve seen in old movies);
- Different jars for storing cosmetic products (powders, creams, and makeup products were bought in papers and carton boxes that needed to be replaced);
- Organizing tray;
- Jewelry box;
- Tissue box cover;
- Manicure set;
- Clock (not all vanity sets came with the matching clocks, but most did)
- Button hook;
- Hairbrush (some sets had a few different sizes of hairbrushes);
- Pin box;
- Matching vase and a service bell (not all have these features).
However, the most humble specimens only consisted of a large hand mirror, hair comb, and a hairbrush on an organizing tray. These ones were made from less expensive materials like iron, wood, aluminum, and glass.
On the other hand, some vanity sets were very valuable then as they are nowadays. The sets that were made for the higher class usually were made with high-quality materials with a lot of handcrafted decorations, and even precious stones like smaragds, diamonds, and sapphires.
Some of the most valuable materials were:
- Platinum and gold;
- Turtle shell;
- Expensive wood like mahogany
Noticeable vintage vanity set manufactures
Now that you know what exactly the vanity set is and for what it was used, it is time to do a quick turnover and discuss a bit about the history of this product. If you type “vintage vanity set” in Google or any other search engine you will get confused.
In most cases, your search result will be what is actually called a vanity dresser. Why am I mentioning this? Well, the vanity dresser is what inspired the most noticeable furniture manufacturers in that time to somehow make it look more complete.
Vanity dressers were a combination of the poudreuse, dressing table, and shaving table into one piece of furniture. However, on its own, it wasn’t as useful since it lacked small details that will enhance its functionality (mirror, jars, boxes for storing, brushes, etc.). The first vanity dresser was artfully engineered for Madame de Pompadour.
Given how popular and profitable they become in a short period most prestigious jewelry, porcelain, makeup, and cosmetic manufacturers had their own line of vanity sets. The list includes names such as:
- Tiffany & Co.
- Royal Worcester
- Crown Devon
What Factors Impact Value Of Vintage Vanity Sets?
You need to know that every item that can be linked with a historic beauty industry is highly valuable and collectible. In most cases, these items are still in great condition, since they were used on special occasions.
Those that were used regularly, are still in a good shape, and all they need is a small restoration, which usually brings them back to their original condition. Like with most other antique items, the value depends on:
- Their overall look – bad or good condition;
- The material and design (simple materials and plain design are far less valuable than decorated ones);
- The period they originate from (as you already know the older the item the higher the value and the price);
- The brand and manufacturer (for instance, vanity set that comes from Tifanny and Co. are still very valuable);
- If the set is complete (not missing any piece).
What’s the real price?
Like with all other antiques, price varies greatly depending on the condition, the origin, and the seller’s estimation. Sometimes, people know the real worth of the item and still ask for the higher price because the market allows them to manipulate it like that.
This is why you need to have some basic knowledge of vintage materials, manufacturers, and how some specific items were made so you can estimate if someone is trying to scam you or not.
However, on average, an antique vintage vanity set in good condition will cost you at least $100 up to $300. But since these products can be put to good use, or given as a special present for a special girl, they are worth every penny.
There are also examples, like specialty sets, large vanity sets, or those that are made out of expensive materials (like gold, turtle shell, platinum, or crystal) that can have a price that is 10 times higher.
How To Identify An Antique Vanity Set?
In case you found an authentic antique vanity set for purchase within your budget but you are not sure if it’s fake or not, this is how you can check their origin. Antique experts recommend you look for additional facts.
- Material – Open your eyes and inspect the material for its originality, all the pieces should match or at least resemble. Material plays a prominent role in detection.
- Marks – Considering they are vintage, look for imposed marks that will confirm their antiquity.
- Glasses – A good spot for checking is glasses, in past, they were merely smooth so any bubbles, cracks, stains, patina, or roughness will confirm that they are vintage.
Things to look for when buying vintage vanity sets?
When you are about to purchase a vanity set, no matter if it is an antique or a new-age one, the only thing that matters is that it connects with your personal style and your needs. For someone that craves vintage luxurious decor, with over-the-edge details, an ornate Victorian brass vanity mirror set will be a great choice.
However, some people prefer plain, modest, and simple designs that do not include any ornaments, or monograms that make them unique. Before you purchase the set, always make sure it has all the pieces that are important to you if you are going to actually use it.
In case you are searching for a vanity set as a collectible, then pay more attention to details and materials, since they will make your set much more valuable in time.
Vintage vanity sets are a beautiful antique addition to every girl’s bedroom. Imagine how happy you would be to receive it as a gift?
Now that you know that, why wouldn’t you be the one to surprise your besties or your sister with an antique vanity set that they can later leave as a valuable heritage piece? Check your local antique shop or the internet and see what they can offer to you.
If some of you who read this know a great place where we can find vintage vanity sets in beautiful condition, please share the information with the rest of us.