Trinket boxes are a gift giver’s dream. There is a box to fit a giftee’s every possible interest, favorite color, or passion. Their whimsical nature, secret little doors, clever themes, and gorgeous artwork appeal to a broad range of people.
Trinket boxes can be masculine or feminine in design. Themes range from the culinary and every day objects to objects of fantasy. Consider the Heinz ketchup bottle or a suitecase trinket box.
Trinket boxes can also have meaning if handing down a family heirloom. Even estate sale finds can come with a good story that can be shared. Whether the trinket box itself is a gift, or it contains a special gift of jewelry inside, trinket boxes are a valued part of the gifting world.
Let’s learn more about these novel keepsakes!
Table of Contents
- What is a trinket box?
- Trinket boxes, something for everyone
- Buying a trinket box as a gift
- Collecting trinket boxes
- Where to buy trinket boxes
- The gift wrap-up
What is a trinket box?
A trinket box is a small container that is used to store small items such as jewelry, keepsakes, and other small trinkets. A trinket box has a removeable cover, which can detach or be hinged.
The “box” may be disguised to look like a statue or miniature everyday object, that opens to reveal hidden treasures inside. These boxes are often decorative and can be made from a variety of materials.
Trinket boxes are commonly used as gifts for special occasions such as birthdays, anniversaries, and weddings or purchased as memorable souvenirs.
History of trinket boxes
The website Chasing Treasure, attributes the popularity of trinket boxes to the Victorian era. The site mentions that trinket boxes were designed for the sole purpose of having something to place a gift of jewelry in. Elaborate boxes took the place of today’s wrapping paper, made even more special with a satin or velvet lining.
“Overtime these small boxes have become collectible items. Some people collect them based on the makers, while others choose to collect them based on their different shapes and sizes. Most trinket boxes are too small to hold any significant piece of jewelry, but they can be given as gift boxes for earrings, rings, cufflinks, or other small pieces.”
Lady Mary Beth, on her Youtube Channel, gives a more detailed history of the trinket box. She attributes the history of the trinket box to the early influence (and envy of) of Chinese porcelain import to parts of Europe that began in the 16th century (Metropolitan Museum of Art). The Venetian and Portuguese influences in the Middle Ages also played a part in the porcelain industry in Europe.
The exquisite products from these early regions were made from materials that lacked durability after kiln firing. A critical ingredient, kaoline (that gave porcelain its hardness), was absent in these countries.
In the 17th century, kaoline was discovered in Germany. This made it possible for Germany to build a vast porcelain factory industry. In the 18th century kaoline was discovered in the Limoge region of France. The region, along with its pool of talented artists, became an established source of high quality and unique porcelain objects.
Lady Mary Beth goes on to explain that these fantastic decorative boxes were intended for the storage of expensive needles (needles would have been a rare and valued object in the 17th century). Trinket boxes soon became utilized as snuff boxes, and later pill boxes in the 20th century.
With the help of funding by the King of France, the Limoges box popularity became widespread among the wealthy elite. Overtime, the working class could begin to afford jewelry, creating the need for jewelry boxes. This interest helped to establish trinket boxes as a more commonplace article in society.
According to Collector’s Weekly, caskets, hearts, egg shapes and compacts were popular early trinket box shapes. Shapes even evolved to include miniature statues and small replicas of every day objects. The cleverness and ingenuity of the artists assured a lasting crowd appeal for trinket boxes.
Trinket dishes, trays, plates, and bowls
Trinket dishes, trays, plates, and bowls are used in the same way that a trinket box is to store small items. These containers can be made out of the same materials as a trinket box. Unlike a trinket box, these keepers of jewelry and other small items are open and do not often have a cover or lid.
This trinket box commemorates a public building in New Brunswick, Canada – likely produced as a local souvenir. A fascinating online article by CBC News takes an in-depth dive into the background and fate of the grand building. Worth noting, the article refers to the building as the “Customs House” although the trinket box clearly reads “Custom House” – a typo by the manufacturer perhaps?
The Ship’s List provides a historical account of the fire that destroyed the “Custom House” in 1877. Illustrated London News, July 28, 1877.
What to put into a trinket box?
Trinket boxes are perfect for storing small items that you want to keep safe and organized. Here are some ideas for what you can put into a trinket box:
- Jewelry such as earrings, necklaces, and rings
- Keepsakes such as small figurines or sentimental items
- Small souvenirs from trips or special events
- Spare change or other small items that tend to clutter your space
The Krazy Coupon Lady did a fun article on porcelain-hinged boxes (PBA). The page offers a peek into a few of the secret insides of trinket boxes and the matching accessories/goodies stored within.
Trinket boxes, something for everyone
Since trinket boxes don’t take up a lot of space, it’s safe to say that it won’t be an unwelcome gift. Although trinket boxes are typically small, they do come in a range of sizes. Trinket boxes are usually a catch-all for odds and ends, but some people buy trinket boxes for specific needs.
Trinket boxes can be made of almost any material. Although porcelain is the most popular, other materials include: wood, metal (pewter), glass, agate, marble, shell, bone, fabric, soapstone, resin, and woven plant fibers. This is by no means an exhaustive list, if you favor a material, just search for it, and there is likely to be a trinket box made of it!
Cloisonné is a favorite trinket box decorative application. Patsy Croft, an enamel jewelry artist, explains the gorgeous art technique of cloisonné . “Cloisonne (pronounced cloy-zon-ay, French for ”partition”) is an ancient metalwork technique that makes use of small, precious metal filaments and colorful glass enamels to create brilliant artwork.“
Trinket box types
The imagination of trinket box artists has resulted in a massive selection of trinket box shapes and sizes. Choices in style aside, there are some overall uses of trinket boxes to point out.
Mini trinket box. A miniature trinket box can be just small enough to accomodate one item. Examples of a tiny trinket box are a ring trinket box or a tooth fairy trinket box or baby teeth trinket box. Trinket boxes can still remain in use as pill trinket box.
Religious trinket box. A religious-themed trinket box can be the perfect container for religoius items. Prayer beads are a universal sacred item important to many faiths. Popular themes include a rosary trinket box, 1st communion, confirmation, baptism trinket boxes or angel trinket boxes.
Men’s trinket box. Of special mention are men’s trinket boxes. Trinket boxes may be thought of as a feminine gift, but men could benefit from them as well. Men’s trinket box is also known as a men’s jewelery box, valet box or men’s catchall tray.
A men’s trinket tray is popular for collecting loose change. A trinket tray on a nightstand makes the perfect landing place for a men’s watch. Masculine designs of leather trinket trays and wood trinket boxes/trays appeal to a man’s taste.
Trinket box ornaments. Due to their small size, novelty, and glitz, trinket boxes make eye-catching ornaments for Christmas trees and decorating. Don’t forget a trinket box stocking stuffer or a trinket box idea for a Christmas gift exchange!
Crystal, rhinestone, and transparent glass trinket boxes. Select an extravagant trinket box for extravangant jewelry! Glass and crystal trinket boxes provide that bit of elegance that you may be looking for. Trinket boxes make perfect engagement ring boxes – any style and type would work, but an engagement ring looks extra special in a glittery trinket box.
Trinket box covers. The signature feature of a trinket box are hinged lids or covers. If the trinket box is going to double as a jewelry box, a larger trinket box may be required.
If a trinket box with a lid isn’t quite right, consider the trinket bowl, trinket dish/plate or trinket tray. These types of trinket containers may or may not have a cover. The absence of a lid makes them an easy drop zone for earrings, coins, and other small items retrieved daily.
Buying a trinket box as a gift
You can buy a trinket box based on a giftee’s favorite color or a theme-shaped that speaks to their passions. Unique trinket box shapes are what makes trinket boxes so cool!
There are popular animal-themed trinket boxes, such as cat trinket boxes, hummingbird trinket boxes, frog-shaped trinket boxes, bird trinket boxes, crab trinket boxes, polar bear trinket boxes – really anything!
Food seems to be a popular topic, including fortune cookie trinket boxes, donuts, Lifesavers candy, pumpkin trinket box, cupcake trinket box, etc.
Miniature anything is always appealing, especially everyday objects. Trinket boxes take the shapes of teacups, tea sets, piano-shaped trinket boxes, and enameled purse trinket boxes.
Personalized trinket boxes
Make your trinket box gift even more special by personalizing it. Personalizing means more than just adding a name.
Find a trinket box that reminds you of your girlfriend, boyfriend, husband, wife, friend, or family member. Let them know that you thought of them when you saw a particular trinket box – expressing that sentiment really means something.
Consider selecting a trinket box that aligns with a favorite interest. Although trinket boxes are often considered feminine, there are designs for men and boys.
Another way to personalize your trinket box gift is by selecting a music trinket box. There is a whole slew of Harry Potter trinket boxes, with the familiar Harry Potter magical theme. Of course, a music trinket box can carry a sentimental tune that has meaning to the giftee.
Trinket boxes can be personalized with a name or message. Consider an intial trinket box/monogram trinket box, or a trinket box with a special engraved message. Add a visual memory with a photo trinket box. Slide in your selected keepsake photograph, or let the giftee choose their own.
Collecting trinket boxes
Trinket boxes have a bit of a souvenir history. It’s common for souvenir shops to offer trinket boxes as a memory of the tour, event, or museum, etc. Souvenirs have been around for hundreds of years. A quick peek on Ebay reveals vintage Niagra Falls trinket boxes.
The famous Limoges porcelains always have a little surprise when opening the trinket box. Lady Mary Beth, in her YouTube channel opens up each box in her collection, showing the suprises. For example, an eclair trinket box, opens to reveal a painting of a coffee cup inside. A Cinderella carriage reveals a tiny glass slipper!
Your friend, loved one, or family member may already be a trinket box collector. If so, find out what types of trinket boxes they like to collect. Maybe it’s frog trinket boxes with a hinged lid, or vintage trinket boxes by a particular manufacturer.
For serious collectors, consider a new or vintage Limoges trinket box purchase. According to Dr. Lori, an antiques appraiser, “Values for important and well made specialty Limoges pieces like vases with images of Napoleon on them, fanciful trinket boxes, etc. are worth upwards of a few thousands of dollars to $10,000 or more. For more traditional pieces of Limoges from the 19th Century, collectors will pay from $500 to $5,000 depending on form, age, condition, and other factors.”
Dr. Lori also warns that it is not easy to tell an authentic piece of Limoges from a fake piece or a good reproduction.
Although this is not a guide to trinket box collectibles, there are still basic things to look for:
- Material: The material used to make a trinket box can affect its durability and appearance. Look for boxes made from high-quality materials such as wood, metal, or glass.
- Marks: Examine the trinket box for any manufacturers’ marks, either on the bottom, inside, or outside of the box or statue. Familiarize yourself with any characteristic materials or methods of a collectible – these clues can identify a manufacturer, even in the absence of a mark.
- Craftsmanship: The craftsmanship of a trinket box can affect its quality. Look for boxes that are well-made, with no visible defects or flaws. Sometimes it’s the “flaws” that make a box more collectible.
- Hinges and clasps: The hinges and clasps of a trinket box should be sturdy and secure. Make sure that they are easy to open and close, but also strong enough to keep the box closed when necessary.
Where to buy trinket boxes
If you are looking for a trinket box, there are several places where you can find them. Trinket boxes are in production. If you can’t find a modern-day trinket box you like, consider a vintage trinket boxes. Sources below will get you started.
Trinket box manufacturers
There are many companies that specialize in creating and selling trinket boxes. Some popular options include:
- Belleek trinket boxes. Belleek trinkets boxes are made of china. They are expensive because of the fragile nature of the china, it’s hard to find Belleek trinket boxes that are still in mint condition.
According to Dr. Lori, “Belleek is very fragile and therefore, condition is vital to maintaining its overall value. Belleek parian china pieces that are cracked, even a hairline crack, lose value in the market quickly. Pieces of a particular size and form are very collectible. Belleek china sets in popular patterns like the Neptune pattern and rare objects like baskets and figurines are collectible and very pricey. Be sure that you are collecting actual Belleek pieces and not a fake or impostor piece of china.”
- Capodimonte trinket box. According to Dr. Lori, “Values for Capodimonte pieces range from a few hundred dollars for a small piece with only a few ornamental sculptural additions to several tens of thousands of dollars for a large scale piece with many highly decorated intricate sculptural ornaments found overall.”
- Fenton Art Glass AKA carnival glass. “With over 100 years of production history, countless Fenton Art Glass pieces are on the market today. Although older glassware remains highly desirable, collectors also value newer Fenton items.” – True Legacy Homes
- Fenton Bone China. According to The Potteries, (thepotteriesDOTORG) “There is no record of a manufacturer by the name “Fenton Pottery Co. “They were recorded as “Pottery Factor” and so were almost certainly not manufacturers themselves but had ware made by others under their name.” This page offers Fenton Pottery examples and marks.
- Lenox: Lenox offers a variety of trinket boxes, including ones with classic designs and ones with more contemporary styles.
- Vera Wang. Modern day trinket boxes, sleek, metallic.
- Waterford Crystal: Waterford Crystal is known for its high-quality crystal products, including trinket boxes that are perfect for storing jewelry or other small items. An Ireland based company.
- Limoges: Limoges orginate from the Limoges region of France, therefore many companies produce these trinket boxes. French companies have been producing porcelain trinket boxes since the 18th century. Their boxes are often highly collectible and can be found in antique shops and online. Although there are several outlets, including Amazon, that sell Limoges trinket boxes, you can purchase directly from online sources, such as Limoges.com or LimogesBoutique.com among other sites.
- Versace trinket box. Founded in 1978 in Milan, Gianni Versace S.r.l. is one of the leading international fashion design houses and a symbol of Italian luxury world-wide.
- Wedgewood trinket box. Jasperware is the name known for the iconic blue ceramic with white relief. According to Love To Know, vintage Wedgewood pieces can be found for under $10, “but the most desirable items sell for hundreds or thousands.” Wedgewood has a rich history in pottery, with Mr. Josiah Wedgewood himself declared “Potter to her Majest.” According to The New York Times, “The Fiskars Corporation, a Finnish maker of home and garden products, said on Monday that it had agreed to acquire the maker of Wedgwood china and Waterford crystal for $437 million.”
Other trinket box manufacturers
- Andrea by Sadek trinket box. “The company was founded by Charles and Norman Sadek in 1936. It is still owned and operated by the Sadek family…They are currently a leader in in the gift and tableware industry and they come out with new designs annually.”
- Juliana trinket boxes
- Rucinni trinket boxes
- Staffordshire trinket box. Lifelong collectibles provides a nice overview of how the Staffordshire enamel boxes are made.
Estate sale, auctions, thrift store trinket box finds
If you are looking for a more unique or vintage trinket box, estate sales and thrift stores can be great places to look. Here are some tips for finding trinket boxes at these types of sales:
- Check the jewelry section: Trinket boxes are often placed in the jewelry section of estate sales and thrift stores, so be sure to check there first.
- Look for unique designs: Estate sales and thrift stores often have one-of-a-kind trinket boxes that you won’t find anywhere else. Keep an eye out for unique designs or interesting patterns.
- Antique shops: Antique shops often have a wide variety of vintage trinket boxes, ranging from porcelain to silver to wood.
- Online marketplaces: Online marketplaces like eBay and Etsy are great places to find vintage and collectible trinket boxes. Just be sure to read the seller’s reviews and check their return policy before making a purchase.
The gift wrap-up
Trinket boxes are so much FUN! Finding and discovering unique and novel trinket boxes is part of the journey. Being a trinket box hunter (which includes online shopping) is an experience that can be shared with others.
There is a personal triumph involved when you find the perfect trinket box gift for a friend or family member (or yourself!).