Compacts in velvet or leather cases took the place for a transportable memento, which has its roots based in the earlier painted portrait miniatures. Tokens of affection are often allusions in memorial and sentimental jewels; where a piece of hair placed inside a jewel may denote the individual who it is kept for, there were rarely direct depictions of the person in the jewel itself. Portrait miniatures, due to expense and size, were mostly relegated to the upper levels of society, as miniaturist’s costs may demand, but with the advent of photography post 1839,photographs as a personal keepsake were a cheaper, faster and more viable option than what had come before. Indeed, as stated by Coombs, ‘miniature painting was supplanted in emotional and cultural life by photography.’
Much like lockets, the compact is a private token of affection and predominantly created for any specific gender. Hence, unlike bracelets, rings and other jewels that are on display, the compact and the locket could be hidden within clothes and personally admired.
With this compact, the feathered and curled, palette-worked hair with gold wire and pearl integration is not uncommon for contemporary brooches of the 1860s. With larger jewels being worn, detail such as this was common for regular wear, however, within this compact, it becomes an image unto itself. The hairwork balances perfectly with the photograph to its left and transcends the photograph to become the physical representation of the person. In earlier, painted portrait miniatures such as;
This dedication still exists, with the portrait and the hairwork on the reverse of each. This style, while more popular during the periods of 1760-1820, worked well in wearable and presentable fashion, as this is more of a pendant in style, however the closed-compact style predates this.