Why Collect Antique Snuff Boxes? What's the Big Deal about them and how they are like Luxury Cars?
Why do people collect such small items, how do they use it, do people even use snuff today? Some may find themselves wondering these questions - and rightfully so, the collection and snuff boxes may appear strange to some, especially with the decline of nasal snuff usage after the Victorian era.
In today's 5 min short read, I'll have the pleasure of explaining some of the reasons why many snuff collectors and enthusiasts admire and become exhilarated by objects that appear to be solely "small boxes" and how they are perhaps analogically similar to luxury cars.
Reasons for the collection come in a variety as with any other hobby or interest people my take on, that being said, there are 3 fundamental areas/points of interest that will likely be the core interests of all snuff box collectors.
1) Aesthetic Beauty
From afar, one may consider these objects as "just a silver box" however upon closer inspection and a little guidance, it becomes incrementally apparent that the skill, craftsmanship and care that took place to make these boxes are unparalleled with today's modern silverware and items.
The photos above are just a few of the intricate and ebellished designs on silver snuff boxes. (Click to See More)
The first photo (left) presents a floral and acanthus motif by chasing the surface silver. The edges of the box are soldered with a rose gold border which has been further decorated with a classical Georgian chased design.
The second (middle) photo shows an equestrian silver-gilt snuff box. The gold appearance is the "gilding" - a process in which a fine gold plate is cast upon the silver box. The Raised lid adds a 3-dimensional texture to the box whilst the background features a "stippled" background, a process in which a silversmith would use fine dotted patterns to create the effect of shadows/depth.
The third (last) photo is a French hand engraved, silver gilt snuff-box which features an incredibly accurate and precise hand engraved design of Napoleonic figures and scroll based motifs. Upon closer inspection, you can even see the shoelaces and moustache of the figures which are less than 1mm in fineness!
2) Historical Values & Sentiment
Snuff boxes were often used as a gift/present to celebrate a special occasion and/or as a token of gratitude to someone special.
These boxes are referred to as "presentation snuff boxes" and feature a cartouche in which a monogram would be engraved, followed by a short message, usually on the interior lid of the box.
Above: A Victorian Silver Table Snuff Box - a first prize gift to the "winner of the bowling match at the Royal Hotel".
Above: A Silver Table Snuff Box presented on christmas to "William John Owen Davies". Nec cito nec tarde - meaning not quickly nor slowly in latin. Considering that the year of the presentation was during the toiling times of WW2 Britain, one can imagine that this was presented with the intentions of remembering/reminding that during times of hardship, we must take things one by one without rush nor faltering in order to strive.
Although today, snuff box presenting is almost non-existent and a very rare practice if any, collectors will look to find snuff boxes that were presented to an iconic figure such as a military leader (Napoleon) or a monarch due to its historical interest and perhaps in some rare cases due to family heritage preservation.
3) Storage with Style
If you have made it to this point, first of all, thank you for reading - and secondly, may have formulated some of your ideas as to how you could use a silver snuff box.
In fact, this is often the case with your everyday snuff box collector - we come up with our own little ways of using these boxes. Despite the decline in the use of snuff, many people use snuff boxes for other purposes such as pill storage, or simply as a small jewellery storage box on the go when travelling.
Since regular pill/medication packagings are not designed for artistic purposes, they are of course, bland and plain. Some collectors enjoy the luxurious and enriching sense of using an antique item made from precious metal - and upon opening a gilt interior snuff box to take a pill out, one can indulge in a moment of historic luxury.
Some may call it unnecessary and ostentatious whilst others may pursue the pinnacle of class and style. A way to look at it may be a comparison to luxury watches and cars: expensive vs economical - they both perform the same task yet undeniably, the experience is significantly different.
Left Vs Right - Difference or Not?
|Photo Credit (Click Here)|
|(Photo Credit) Snuff in its original container.||Victorian Silver Table Snuff Box with Gilt Interior (Click Image)|
Similarities continue in areas such as the historical heritage of the company that made the products, the era in which they were built and the materials used to construct the final product.
Due to there being many different types of boxes for different uses and purposes, it can be difficult to grasp why there are so many "small boxes" that are of high value, however, a little research on their history and browsing museums collections will likely change your perspective on these objects.
As always, we recommend that you have a good look around before purchasing/starting a collection as there are a vast amount of different snuff boxes out there.
If this has sparked an interest in snuff boxes, we suggest you may wish to read about the different types of snuff boxes.