The interior of a jewelry box. There are pieces of new and vintage jewelry inside. Two silver-colored metal vintage makeup compacts are set next to one another in the jewelry box tray. One is quite small and round, the other rectangular with soft edges. Both have detailed engraving for decoration.
DIY, Learn With Me, Vintage

The Story of Cheramy + Vintage Compact Repotting

Today I’d love to share with you a hobby of mine that ranks in dorkiness somewhere slightly above my nerdy bird-watching habit and just slightly below my fondness for drunken YouTube karaoke. It’s…. vintage compact collecting.

The interior of a jewelry box. There are pieces of new and vintage jewelry inside. Two silver-colored metal vintage makeup compacts are set next to one another in the jewelry box tray. One is quite small and round, the other rectangular with soft edges. Both have detailed engraving for decoration.
Pictured here– my first compact (left) and my most prized compact (right)
“Vintage compacts: for when you suck at being the right kind of millennial.”

It’s not just vintage compacts. I also love vanity kits, crystal dishes, weird vintage hair styling equipment, and twee vintage crap in general.  That said, I wanted to share a bit about the very first compact I ever obtained and that began my obsession: the Cheramy rouge pot.

The small round compact held in a person's fingertips. The word "Cheramy" is engraved in all capital letters on the front of the compact.The beginning of this story isn’t very exciting. I got it from… somewhere. I can’t even remember now. I just know that one day I owned it and that I was enchanted by the idea that makeup and personal care goods would come in a container that was high quality (by today’s standards) and had a more heirloom quality than your run of the mill scuzzy plastic Maybelline powder compact that was kicking around at the bottom of your middle school backpack with the crumbs, that one weird elastic band with hair stuck in it,  and a ball of paper with a lump inside that you’re afraid to open up. When I first obtained it, it still had the original makeup inside and, although I didn’t know what it was at the time, I now know it was rouge, and sort of a bright orangey one at that.

DresdenCreations
(This photo shows you the original makeup color in my rouge pot, however, this pot is owned by DresdenCreations on etsy who happens to be selling it with original makeup for a very affordable $26 USD if you’d like one for yourself!)

Now, here’s a warning for those of you who feel like vintage items should be kept in the condition you found them in: unless a vintage item would be damaged by use or is a particularly rare item, I don’t preserve it, I use it. If hearing that I scooped out unusable 90 year old makeup and trashed it so I could refill it with something modern makes you upset, you’re going to have a bad time in this blog post and will want to skip the refill portion of this entry.

 

No tears now, you’ve been warned.

 

 

So, what the heck is Cheramy? After a little digging around, I learned that Cheramy was a perfume company that was an amalgamation of French and American roots. During much of the 19th century, France was viewed by American consumers as the superior source for all kinds of beauty goods and the demand was high. To encourage American shoppers to buy, well, American, American companies heavily taxed French perfumes and some branded themselves with French vibes- Cheramy being one of those companies. [1]

Perfumista Alexandra Star explains that “Cheramy” was a play on the French “Cher Ami”, and in English, “Dear Friend”. [2] Their inaugural scent was “April Showers” and was intended to compete in America with French perfume and cosmetic companies.

A vintage advertisement. An illustration of two feminine-looking people, one drinking tea. Below is copy promoting Cheramy's products and illustrations of various perfumes and cosmetics.
Image Source

The intrigue was actually a bit complicated though. According to an unnamed source who goes simply by “Compactstory“, the head of Cheramy was actually a Frenchman, looking to find loopholes in the American system that sought to favor American goods and disadvantage French imports. After working for a powerhouse perfumery with many centuries of history in France, he began to work with Americans to develop an American-made brand that would feel completely French, while also being transparently American. [3]

20180802_154125

Cheramy produced two kinds of cosmetic compacts- an ornate gold collection called “Cappi”, and their April Shower line which were silver in color, machine etched, and advertised as “a little silvery jewel with beauty inside.”[4] Considering this, I’ve made the assumption that my rouge pot would most likely be an April Showers line rouge pot (an easy guess to make, considering Cappi cases said “Cappi” on them, natch.)

I’m not sure how much I paid for my compact, but Grace Hummel, of Cleopatra’s Boudoir, shares that period April Showers advertisements declared that “permanent rouge” was a mere $.60. Dang.

20180802_154519

Now that I knew the history of my Cheramy compact and can assume the date to being somewhere within the 1920s, I had to decide what to do with it.

Clearly, using makeup that’s nearing its 100th birthday might not be the most well-thought-out move, but as I mentioned before, I like to use things– not just let them sit around and collect dust (there are Cheramy cosmetics preserved in museums for that.) So that means, in this case, that while I wouldn’t use the makeup, I would use the case. I decided to refill it with some natural “boo boo stick”, which is a plant-based fat with essential oils that are soothing to burns, cuts, but also works as a lip balm as well.

20180802_154800

I melted it down in the microwave and topped up the case!

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The compact has some fine slits in the back that are a part of its construction, and that I knew I would get a little leakage from, but I went for it because I knew that it would help push out the remaining rouge I’d been unable to reach during initial cleaning. Here it is! Spilled boo boo stick and century old who-knows-what!

20180802_160036

My Cheramy rouge pot is now living out a second life as a travel scrape-burn-and-gloss pot and fits along nicely with my great grandmother’s powder compact (of which I also dumped out the hundred-ish year old powder and refilled with my own. #IAmAMonster #Don’tDoxMeForThisVintageNerds)

Thanks for learning with me today! In the comments, shout out if you’re a collector of anything!

…And if you stopped by here looking for information on Cheramy yourself, please visit these more in depth sources that I used for my blog post and show them your support!

Sources:

[1] para 1-5
[3] para 11
[4] para 15
http://collectingvintagecompacts.blogspot.com/2011/05/cheramy-american-perfume-line-with.html

[2] Alexandra Star’s Etsy listing for April Showers, para 1 https://www.etsy.com/listing/271044681/cheramy-april-showers-50-ml-or-169-oz

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