What's a calling card, you say? A calling card was an essential accessory used by the higher classes of Europe, Russia and North America. From the 1820s, the etiquette practiced by guests was to leave a visiting card in the drawing rooms of middle class households in Europe. Leaving this small card was both a sign of impeccable manners and a high social class.

Calling cards were no simple affair, they were many practices and expectations surrounding these little rectangles of paper.  For example, Rules of Etiquette and Home Culture published in 1886 explained: ''The cards of unmarried and married men should be small. For married persons a medium size is in better taste than a large card. The engraving in simple writing is preferred, and without flourishes."

Calling cards are also not to be confused with business cards, if one should leave their business card on a social visit, this would be considered to be most bad-mannered. A business card left with a servant or in the drawing room would signify that the visit had been business, and not pleasure.

A Victorian silver Castle Top card case depicting The Scott Memorial Edinburgh, by Nathaniel Mills Birmingham 1846 inscription to back. 10 cm x 7 cm , 2.2 toz or 71 grams. Bristol Auction Rooms Estimate:£300 - £400 A Victorian silver Castle Top card case depicting The Scott Memorial Edinburgh, by Nathaniel Mills Birmingham 1846 inscription to back. 10 cm x 7 cm , 2.2 toz or 71 grams.
Bristol Auction Rooms
Estimate:£300 - £400

Card cases were most commonly made of mother-of-pearl and tortoiseshell, but if one wanted to show off their international connections, a card case of the finest Moroccan leather or ivory from China would make them the talk of the town.

The Crème de la Crème of card cases, also known as castle tops, were made in silver and engraved or die-stamped by makers in Birmingham. Nathaniel Mills was the most revered of caste top makers.

Before World War II, calling cards were replaced by the business card.

The card top featured will be part of Bristol Auction Rooms' sale on 10th November, 2016. Check out the full catalogue here.

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