Vanity Case, ca. 1927; Produced by Cartier (Paris, France); Manufactured by Henri Lavabre (French); Lapis lazuli, carved jade, carved ruyi, coral, diamonds, lacquer, mirrored plate glass, gold, platinum; 9.9 × 5.2 × 1.7 cm (3 7/8 × 2 1/16 × 11/16 in.); Photo: Doug Rosa
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Tickets are free for members.

Jeweled Splendors of the Art Deco Era: The Prince and Princess Sadruddin Aga Khan Collection features exquisite work from premier jewelry houses of Europe and America – among them Cartier, Van Cleef & Arpels, Lacloche Frères, Boucheron and Bulgari – dating from 1910 to 1938.

More than 100 extraordinary examples of luxury cigarette and vanity cases, compacts, clocks and other objects are on view in the Carnegie Mansion’s Teak Room. The collection includes the personal gifts from Prince Sadruddin Aga Khan to his wife, Catherine, and was amassed over three decades, displaying the excitement, innovation and creativity of the Art Deco era at its most luxurious. Among the works on view will be boxes adorned with Chinese dragons, Persian birds and Japanese plum blossoms in a riot

The world’s most renowned jewelry firms created exquisitely crafted vanity cases, called nécessaires, which contained divided interior compartments to conceal face powder, lipsticks and mascara. Designed for the increasingly liberated modern woman asserting her style and independence, these jeweled personal accessories examine the impact of changing femininity.

A superb example on view will be the 1928 Cypress Tree Vanity Case by Van Cleef & Arpels with an exotic and nature-based motif, which was one of Prince Sadruddin’s earliest box acquisitions. The increasing independence of women in the 1920s coincided with the popularity of women’s watches. On view will be pendant necklace-form watches and vanity cases with hidden watches, which offered an unobtrusive way of checking the time.

Vibrant colors, bold forms and exotic motifs mark the collection, with inspiration drawn from the natural world, Eastern cultures and the machine age. Cypress Tree Vanity Case, 1928; Produced by Van Imperial Guardian Lion Mystery Clock, 1929; Produced Cleef & Arpels (Paris, France); Manufactured by by Maurice Couet (French, 1885-1963) for Cartier Alfred Langlois (France).

The collection also includes bejeweled timepieces, from large mystery table clocks to small standing watch-form clocks. On view will be the 1929 Imperial Guardian Lion mystery clock for Cartier—so named as the minute and hour hands appear to float—with serpent- like dragon hands surrounded by diamond-studded numerals, set on a carved coral stem. The casemakers were often the same as those whose stonework and enameling adorned the cigarette boxes and vanity cases in the collection. The mystery clock would have involved six or seven specialists, including a clock-maker-designer, the orfèvre-boîtier (goldsmith-specialty box maker), the enameler, the lapidary, the stone setter and the polisher.