Why spend more on playing cards when any set will do? It’s an interesting question, and at first glance, one with an obvious answer. After all, why invest more in something that’s going to get battered, bent and easily lost? Centuries ago, the consensus was a little different.
In countries spanning the Eurasian continent, from Algeria to India, a set of playing cards was reserved only for the wealthiest and most privileged classes. Cards were hand painted with dedication and care, as evidenced by the many intricate details upon their surfaces. Mamluk playing cards are a particularly stunning example. Sporting meticulously painted calligraphy, these fifteenth to sixteenth century cards are a work of art, and undoubtedly the property of an illustrious and wealthy individual.
It was also during this period that Europe was witnessing the rise of a new, affluent class of people. A class of people that wished to advertise their newly acquired wealth, and a set of luxuriously extravagant playing cards was the perfect means to do so.
Deluxe, extremely costly, copper plate-printed, gold-edged cards were highly sought after by such individuals. They featured the latest artistic trends and were frequently protected in displays, only to be removed when the occasion required something in order to amuse family members and esteemed guests. So delicate and precious were these cards, they barely saw use as anything other than decoration. There is absolutely no doubt these high quality playing cards were in great demand, and used extensively as status during the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries. But a revolution was coming.
The fifteenth century saw significant developments in paper production and, combined with the invention of the printing press, attitudes towards playing cards started to change. The inevitable forward march of technology meant, that for the first time, playing cards had become affordable for the masses. Thus, playing cards became something to be enjoyed by the ordinary folk and were enshrined in the popular culture.
In contrast to the luxurious cards created for the wealthy, these cheap, mass-produced cards not only brought enjoyment to their owners through play, but served to amuse with colourful, sometimes raunchy, pictures, and to manipulate, with political messages, ideology and propaganda. With games like Poker, Blackjack, and many more now known around the globe, it is obvious that the popularity of playing cards has never dwindled.
So why then, you ask, should you splurge on playing cards? Because they, like any other number of things, have a rich and varied history, deserving of a little celebration. It is possible to purchase the most marvellous and fanciful creations, which are more suited to being condemned behind the glass of a display cabinet for the remainder of their lives. Or you could simply opt for a throwaway pack, crumpled and long forgotten at the bottom of some dusty draw. Either way, it is a disservice to the humble playing card’s history.
Choose to celebrate it instead with Purling London’s own Silver Gilded Playing Cards. We love the feel of our high quality cards as we run our fingers over their silver-gilt edges and smooth linen finish. Respecting their history, we have ensured that our cards are both beautiful and playable. Our packs feature the classic English Design with an updated colour palette of magenta and royal blue, specially designed Ace of Spades and Joker cards, and the Purling logo hidden within the clothing of the court cards, allowing you to appreciate them on all levels. The reverse of our playing cards features a symmetrical street art-inspired colour splash design and the final touch is, of course, the glossy silver-gilt edging and the gorgeous storage box. Our playing cards are made to be played and admired.
For more information and to purchase Purling London Luxury Playing Cards, visit our Shop.