The cigarette case's distinguished past still holds influence on culture today.
Beyond their functional purpose of protecting your smokes, the design and distribution of smoking cases has never been a purely utilitarian pursuit. They have long been associated with style and fashion, and it didn't take long for cigarette cases to become society's must-have personal accessories within smoking culture.
They were seen in the fashion circles of New York, sold in corner drug stores and in mail-order catalogs, and even carried by British royalty like Princess Margaret. During World War II soldiers spoke of metal cigarette cases stopping bullets from wounding and killing them. All these stories contributed to the universal appeal of the smoking case. Here are a few history-making cases from the 19th century to the present day.
The bejeweled Fabergé cases
Cigarette cases made of precious metals, adorned with artistic engravings, monograms, jewels, and the like were famously crafted by the house of Peter Carl Fabergé. Most recognized for his Fabergé eggs, the jeweler created magnificent objects for the Russian czars in the late 19th and early 20th centuries.
Less well-known are his extravagant custom-designed cigarette cases, some of which are reportedly worth up to $25,000. This snakelike cigarette case is owned by the British royal family:
Cole Porter's storied cases
Renowned jewellery designer to the stars Fulco di Verdura — also known as "America's Crown Jeweler" — designed a series of famous cigarette cases for Cole Porter on commission from his wife Linda. At the opening of each of Porter's productions, Linda presented him with a custom cigarette case styled to relate to that show's theme. Each was more beautiful than the last, in gold, silver or leather, many studded with gems and other precious materials.
One of these rarities is a rose gold “shell” cigarette case commemorating the 1941 release of Columbia Pictures’ film You’ll Never Get Rich starring Fred Astaire and Rita Hayworth. A bit of jewellery history mixed with Hollywood glamour and movie magic, this truly special piece reminds us of the unique relationship between an iconic jeweler and his equally iconic friend and musician.
Humphrey Bogart's one-of-a-kind
In Hollywood’s golden age of the 1940s and 1950s, cigarettes were as much a part of movies as opening credits. Humphrey Bogart, Lauren Bacall, Cary Grant, James Dean and Marilyn Monroe — to name a few — rarely filmed a scene without a cigarette coolly dangling from their famous lips. Smoking cases owned by such celebrities demand a pretty sum these days. Bogie gifted a designer smoking case — in the form of a parcel wrapped in silver-gilt twisted ribbon, with enamel postage stamp and engraved postmark — to his then-wife Mayo for Christmas, and it recently sold for GBP £8,750 at auction.
James Bond's gadgetry
Since the 1960s, James Bond has been the trendsetting action hero of the silver screen, possessing all the hallmarks of expensive tastes and upper-class attitudes: Rolex watches, vintage Brut champagne, Russian caviar, and even the famous Fabergé cigarette cases. In a number of his films and novels, 007 uses cigarette cases for more than just holding smokes, concealing his innovative tools, devices, and gadgets created by Q.
In the The Man with the Golden Gun, a smoking case is a piece of an actual weapon wielded by the film’s antagonist. Christopher Lee’s character, the high-priced assassin Scaramanga, carried a single-shot firearm containing a single 23-carat gold bullet. He assembles the titular weapon the Golden Gun from a cigarette case, lighter, fountain pen, and cufflinks.
Boardwalk Empire's 1920s throwback
The obsession with vintage smoking accessories continues today with HBO's TV series Boardwalk Empire. The opening credits feature the tapping of an unfiltered cigarette on the cover of a gleaming smoking case brandished by gangster Nucky Thompson. Fans are so enamored with the case that a replica market has sprung up online (HBO once sold their own official version, but no longer does).
Smoking cases for the modern age
Smoking cases have evolved considerably in recent years, but they remain essential to safeguarding your smokes on the go. Check out our guide to choosing your everyday smoking case to find the right statement style that works for you. And while you're here, take a look at our very own case, The Traveller — styled for the modern smoker with all the latest tech at your fingertips.