Melissa & Regent Of London Powder Compacts History & Heritage
No records survive of the manufacturing concerns responsible for the Melissa & Regent of London brands of vanities. However, we are committed to searching for information. In these instances the accessories contained with the powder compacts and vanity sets enable us to build up a picture of the history of these delightful mid-century collectibles. Case construction and similarities of lid designs yield further clues. When we liaise with other collectors and specialists we can pool information. It is often possible to find when firms ceased to exist and this is helpful in dating brands such as Melissa & Regent of London. Vintage powder compacts can often be dated by their styles and sizes. For example many loose powder compacts fitted with full inner lids were made in the 1930s, 1940s and 1950s.
By the 1950s compact manufacturers were focused on designing cases that could house both types of face powder - loose and pressed. These were & are still known as convertible powder compacts and they did not have full inner lids. By the 1950s compressed face powder was used all over the world. Max Factor Creme Puff was launched in 1953. It is still immensely popular today. Fortunately, Max Factor have not changed the size of powder pan (67 mm) and so it fits all vintage convertible powder compacts. Max Factor created Creme Puff to give film stars such as Judy Garland, Jean Harlow and Joan Crawford flawless complexions throughout the day when they would be spending many hours filming.
Vanities expert Juliette Edwards' research shows that Melissa was a British brand made by Searchlight Products (Melissa) Ltd. This firm was known to be located in Acton, London, in the early 1950s. Another expert, Jenny Duncan, found evidence that by 1962 this company also had premises at Arundel Road, Uxbridge, Middlesex. A service department (A.R.D. Melissa) tasked with repairing accessories was located at Fitzherbert Spur, Farlington, Hampshire.
Regent of London powder compacts also have scant history recorded. The detective work by collectors is ongoing. In 2011 specialists were able to date Regent of London designs to 1962. Many others are obviously 1950s powder compacts. Melissa & Regent of London often have identical features - like catches, engraved designs on the inner lid and base suggesting that they were made in the same manufacturing premises. There is a consensus of opinion in the world of compact collecting that the Melissa and Regent of London brand were mainly manufactured in the 1950s with some being made in the 1960s, just prior to the end of production for this firm.
If anyone has any other information we would be delighted to include it in this blog post.
Some accessories crafted by this maker are easy to date because of their theme or advertisements that pertain to them. The compact shown below is one such vanities.
This splendid Melissa compact mirror was made as part of The CORONATION Series by Searchlight Products (Engineers) Ltd. H M Queen Elizabeth II is depicted wearing the sash of The Most Noble Order of the Garter. The star is pinned to the sash. The star was introduced by King Charles I. The enamelled star is the heraldic shield of St George's Cross encircled by the Garter which is inscribed HONI SOIT QUI MAL Y PENSE. The shield is encircled by an eight-point silver badge. Her Majesty is wearing The Diamond Diadem.
This is such a charming portrayal of our beloved Queen. The original clear protective cover has ensured that the lid decoration is in super condition, as is the compact. The compact is finished in a subtle gold enamel. Measures 8.5 cm diameter. Weighs 77.7 grams.
A delightful tribute to H M Queen Elizabeth II which is ideal as a display collectible collectible.
Some Melissa brand compacts are decorated with tin foil, such as the one shown below.
This charming Melissa compact is ideal for all loose foundation or as a cherished collectible. The lid is adorned with the most gorgeous ballet scene crafted from foil. All the ballet dancers are wearing the most splendid iridescent white costumes which shimmer as they catch the light. Two of the ballerinas are holding garlands of roses. The sea and sky are a wonderful azure blue.
The compact is in superb condition.
Due to the highly durable finish which the makers applied this compact will not tarnish or need to be cleaned
The original accessories are present - box, felt pouch, signed puff and card edged sifter.
One of our favourite Regent of London vanity sets is shown below.
Such a wonderful find! A rare unused 1950s Regent Of London crimson enamel powder compact and lipstick holder in the original splendid clamshell case which even has the original outer cardboard box in a lovely grey / green colour and what looks like the item code on it. A super set in delightful unused condition. The enamel is absolutely stunning. The compact has a gilt diamond cut floral motif with a stylish border. The original luxurious puff, sifter and pouch are also present. All clasps and hinges work perfectly. The mirror gives a good clear reflection. The mirror bezel is signed REGENT OF LONDON MADE IN ENGLAND. The base has a very beautiful design typical of Regent of London vanities - an engine turned design of many different sizes of diamond shapes.
1954 SEARCHLIGHT PRODUCTS (ENGINEERING) LTD ADVERTISEMENT
The advertisement shows a lovely array of Melissa and Regent of London vanities around the edge.
The advertisement features the New Cosmetique which is a powder compact and lipstick combination.
Here is a gorgeous Melissa New Cosmetique with a splendid gilt finish.
A spectacular unused gilded 1950s Melissa New Cosmetique brand loose foundation compact with a spring mounted lipstick holder. A joy to behold! This splendid vanity is in superb condition and beautifully gilded throughout. Octagonal in shape and engraved with ornate scrollwork and floral motifs. The lid, interior and base are embellished with beautiful guilloche engravings. The original puff and sifter present. The catches, hinges and lipstick tube all work perfectly. The interior contains a large and clear mirror. The mirror bezel is stamped MADE IN ENGLAND. The slender and elegant puff has a pink silk top emblazoned with the stylized Melissa crown trademark. Measures 9.7 cm x 9.5 cm.
A gleaming golden unused mid-century Melissa Brand vanity set which is so pleasing to the eye! This lovely matching powder compact and lipstick holder are decorated with a gilt lacquered finish which is so durable that the set will not require any cleaning to maintain its prepossessing appearance.
The compact is fitted with the original puff, sifter, instruction leaflet and black felt lined pouch.
A high quality vintage Melissa brand vanity set which is adorned with mother of pearl. This delightful matching handbag mirror compact and lipstick holder are decorated with a gilt lacquered finish which is so durable that it will not tarnish or require cleaning.
The original puff, sifter, instruction leaflet and black felt pouch are present. The mirror gives a good and accurate reflection. The mirror bezel is signed Melissa MADE IN ENGLAND. Measures 3 inches diameter. Weighs 75 grams.
This compact is ideal for use with all loose foundation and pressed foundation pans measuring 67mm diameter.
A wonderful unused Regent Of London glitzy golden and brown embroidered makeup compact which is ideal for all standard sizes of pressed foundation. For example Max Factor Creme Puff, CCUK, Rimmel and Miss Beauty. This gorgeous 1950s powder compact is in superb condition. The lid is fitted with the original stunning floral motif which is sewn with rich brown and gold thread. Simply stunning! This decoration is framed by the most delightfully embellished gilt surround engraved with holly leaves and holly berries. The interior contains a mirror which gives an accurate and good reflection. The mirror frame is signed REGENT OF LONDON MADE IN ENGLAND. The powder well is coated with the original protective white enamel layer. The design on the base is gorgeous and typical for the Regent of London and Melissa brands, both of which were owned by Searchlight Products Limited. The base has a finely engraved engine turned design. Smooth tone tiny diamond shapes and larger diamond shaped borders ensure this accessory will not show fingerprints. Measures 7.2 cm diameter. Weighs 57.6 grams.
SEARCHLIGHT PRODUCTS LTD PATENT 1015458
1950S MELISSA LUCITE LOOSE POWDER COMPACT
Melissa & Regent of London vanities were known for their many varied designs using quite a range of differing materials. These brands appeared on the market in the 1950s. Some of the Melissa vanities were only identifiable from the well known ‘teardrop’ Melissa catch that held the powder well door in place. Many Melissa & Regent of London compacts were signed on the mirror bezel. Others would carry the brand name on the pouch, puff or presentation box.
We are grateful to Jenny Williams who has been translating her mother's diaries from shorthand. She discovered this charming reference from Searchlight Products Ltd.
1964 SEARCHLIGHT PRODUCTS LIMITED REFERENCE
The directors are listed as:
L. Seifert, B. Seifert & J. Seifert.
The office manager was L. Clifford.
As well owning the Melissa and Regent of London brands we can see from this letter they also owned the Golden Age Giftware brand.
Lucite a brief history:
Lucite is a clear acrylic plastic & it is hugely popular with collectors, who often bid large amounts on jewellery & accessories. This is especially true for vintage vanities made from this material. Lucite was developed in the 1930s. By the 1950s costume jewellery & compacts were much in demand if they were made from Lucite. In its pure form it is translucent & resembles glass. However, it is suitable for dying with bold colours which makes for eye-catching accessories. An added bonus is that Lucite is less expensive to produce than Catalin, Bakelite & Galalith. It is more chemically stable than celluloid. Within time all these materials ceased to be used as Lucite was a far more preferable material.
The image of a lucite compact with a reverse carved bouquet demonstrates the appeal of this material.
In the 1930s DuPont & their rivals Rohm & Haas worked on polymethyl methacrylate compounds which are glass-like acrylic resins. In 1935 Rohm & Haas showcased its results - the unbreakable Plexiglass. Two years later DuPont was producing Lucite wares.
Both Plexiglass & Lucite were used by the military. The noses of bomber planes, windshields, cockpits & periscopes were all made from these materials. DuPont also saw the value of the jewellery trade & freely licensed Lucite to manufacturers of costume jewellery & accessories.
JELLY BEAN TRIFARI GOLD & PAVÉ PENGUIN
One really fascinating fact that will appeal to all those interested in recycling…….. the jewellery manufacturer Trifari was the first to use this new plastic in the late 1930s. They became known for using cabochons of Lucite that looked like rock crystals to form the bellies of their animal themed brooches. These are known as Jelly Bellies. Alfred Phillipe, the head designer for Trifari, was responsible for producing the Jelly Belly menageries of Poodles, seals, bumble bees, elephants & chicks to name a few.
It is said that Alfred Phillipe was looking at a pile of Air Force ‘scrap’ which was deemed unusable. Much of this scrap was from fighter planes windshields. Phillipe had the idea to use these windshields & they were carved & dyed to make Jelly Belly cabochons!
An absolutely delightful unused mid-century Melissa brand mother of pearl and abalone compact mirror which is ideal for loose foundation or as a cherished handbag mirror / collectible. The lid is embellished with iridescent mother of pearl and abalone squares which are mesmerizingly beautiful. An engraved gilt border frames the lid. All the original features are present - presentation box, pouch, puff and sifter. The compact is signed MELISSA MADE IN ENGLAND. The underside of the inner lid is gilt and satinized. The powder well is coated with a protective layer of pristine white enamel.
Measures 6.5 cm x 5.3 cm and weighs 92.7 grams.
Some of the most highly prized compacts are those that have been adorned with high quality mother of pearl / abalone. As you can see the monochrome design is very attractive. The compact comes with the original presentation box, brown felt pouch, pristine white sifter and leatherette puff which bears the Melissa crown trade mark & the signature too. The compact is in gorgeous unused condition. The first class workmanship is so evident, most especially the inlaid nacre lid. The mother of pearl and abalone so beautiful and iridescent! The whole item was lacquered during the manufacturing process and so it will never tarnish or need to be cleaned.
Both terms abalone and mother of pearl are so interchangeable that most people do not see much difference between them. Mother of pearl is a layer that lines the inside of the shells of molluscs and it is known as nacre. It protects the mullocks from infections and also reduces irritation caused by materials that enter the shell. Abalone belongs to a family of seashells. It has a shell that resembles an ear and an elevated apex towards the center. Abalone has dark rainbow shades when compared to mother of pearl.
While mother of pearl can be found in a variety of marine and freshwater shellfish, abalone is not found in abundance. The harvest of abalone is limited.
MELISSA TEAR DROP CATCH
Melissa branded musical powder boxes are noted for reliability & beauty.
If handled correctly mid-century musical powder boxes will play superbly & look beautiful.
MELISSA MUSICAL COMPACT WITH INSTRUCTION LEAFLET
A vibrant unused Melissa compact mirror in the original box. A colourful floral display ensures this pretty little compact will gain a second glance. This compact was specifically designed for pressed powder which was also known as creme powder at the time (late 1950s). Max Factor Creme Puff, Constance Carroll and Rimmel Stay Matte are suitable for this handbag mirror which is in super unused condition. The gilt mirror bezel is inscribed Made In England. The base is decorated with a bold spiral, the Melissa trademark crown and signed MELISSA MADE IN ENGLAND. Measures 3 inches diameter and weighs 61 grams.