The art of smoking: antique cigarette holders in photographs

Made from precious metals and heavily bejewelled, cigarette holders were a fashion accessory of the wealthy. A new book showcases the collection of Chinese-American art collector Carolyn Hsu-Balcer

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 13 January, 2016, 2:01am
UPDATED : Tuesday, 28 November, 2017, 10:40am

Smoking isn’t exactly considered the height of sophistication these days, but a new book transports the reader back to a time when a cigarette - preferably housed in an ornate holder made from gold, amber or tortoiseshell - always dangled from the lips of the great and the good the world over.













A Token of Elegance: Cigarette Holders in Vogue presents 125 images from the cigarette holder collection of Chinese-American art collector Carolyn Hsu-Balcer, a trustee of the China Institute (New York).













Flicking through the book, written by Martin Barnes Lorber and Rebecca McNamara, with photography by John Bigelow Taylor and Dianne Dubler, you’ll discover all manner of vintage cigarette holders, ranging from cheap promotional items given away by New York nightclubs to extravagant versions crafted by the likes of Tiffany, Fabergé, Cartier and Van Cleef & Arpels.

Of particular interest to Asian readers will be the exquisite antique cigarette holders from China and Japan, including a silver dragon made in China more than a century ago and an ornate silver and gold holder crafted in Japan around the same time.

Hsu-Balcer will be hosting a talk about her cigarette holder collection at Hong Kong’s Liang Yi Museum on February 2. For more information, visit