Dating snuff boxes
I am particularly interested in snuff boxes where the design identifies a manufacture in this period. Bill Poynton.
DATING UNMARKED LATE 17th/EARLY 18th CENTURY ENGLISH SNUFF BOXES
Whilst more expensive items were made of Gold and Silver, less expensive items were made of horn, tortoiseshell, mother-of-pearl or wood. It became widespread in other countries, when the demand for decorated snuffboxes, which were considered valuable gifts, increased. Lids were often decorated with Chinoiserie note 1 or other typical 18th-century, subject matter, such as allegories and flowers.
The "stand-away" hinge appears to have evolved over a period of around years into one where the hinge becomes an integral part of the body of the box, being soldered to the side. Snuffboxes reflected the art and craft of the painter of miniatures, the enameller, the jeweller, the goldsmith and silversmith. All gave 17th and 18th century craftsmen an opportunity to execute dating snuff boxes and elaborate designs.
So how do we go about dating them? Let's call it a small, usually ornamented, box for holding snuff a scented, powdered tobacco. Most of the box lids were decorated with silver or gold pique work note 2 which occasionally extended to the side and base.
Some were small enough to fit in a waistcoat pocket, and others were larger. By this, I mean a hinge by which the lid was secured to the body with studs, rivets or screws see the photos below but where the barrel of the hinge stands away from the body of the box.
They were mainly oval in shape, sometimes rectangular, occasionally round, but the one thing they seemed to have in common in the late 17th century, say fromwas a "stand-away" hinge. The practice of sniffing or inhaling a pinch of snuff was common in England around the 17th century and in the early 18th century.
The lack of full hallmarking may well suggest that, rather than being made in an established silversmith's workshop in a large dating snuff boxes or city, these might have been made by Provincial or itinerant silversmiths for the local gentry.
To summarise, it would appear that dating these boxes might seem haphazard, but it really comes down to a question of the design, the pattern of decoration and recognition of the style of hinge.
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