Silver Snuff Boxes: The Different Types - 5 Min Read

Silver Snuff Boxes
Whether you are a long time collector or just starting off, it does not take long to realise the vast amount of snuff box designs, shapes and sizes they come in. Ranging from large and jewelled gold boxes to the minimalistic pocket boxes there is certainly a vast amount to choose from and be it for collection or viewing, the wide array of boxes can be a point of great interest and curiosity.

One may often find themselves looking at ornate pieces and magnificent collections in museums, private displays and auctions wondering how these snuff boxes came to be made, the techniques used for the design and the significance of the various pieces.

In today's blog post, let's take a look at the different types of silver snuff boxes that you may come across.

1) Pocket Snuff Boxes  

Georgian Gilt Snuff Box

Above: Georgian Silver Snuff Box with Gilt Interior (Click to View)

These snuff boxes were often owned by the wealthy/upper class of the Georgian - Victorian era in order to store stuff on the go - usually, the boxes would contain one or two days worth of stuff. Such boxes were made of precious metals such as silver - the one above features a gilt (gold plate) interior for aesthetics and also to prevent the silver from oxidising/tarnish (gold is unreactive).

2) Table Snuff Boxes 

Imperial Russian Snuff Box Silver and Gilt Theodor Werner

Imperial Russian Silver Table Snuff Box Theodor Werner

Above: The exterior and interior of an Imperial Russian Silver and Gilt Table Snuff Box. (Click to View) Snuff boxes were popular and present across the world (18th -19th century) and would have similar features/uses. Designs different according to the different regions and artistic cultures of the nation. 

Table snuff boxes are larger in all dimensions with a sturdy weight to ensure it does not fall over easily when placed on a surface. These snuff boxes were found in communal halls, large houses and even official governing building such as a parliament.

The size and decorations of the snuff box would symbolise the wealth of the house/owner and upon gatherings, the box would be passed around as each person would take a pinch of snuff from the box. 

3) Silver Gilt Snuff Boxes

French Silvergilt Snuff Box with Hand Engravings and Vermeil

Above: A silver gilt French 18th-century snuff box with intricate hand engravings.

Silver Gilt Georgian Snuff Box with Equestrian Horse Riding Raised Relief

Above: A silver gilt high relief equestrian snuff box with an embellished horse riding scene. 

Silver gilt snuff boxes are coated in a fine layer of gold which may be referred to as gold plate, gilding or vermeil - all referring to a similar process of coating the surface of a metal object with gold.

A solid silver box gilded gives an appearance of a solid gold box visually whilst maintaining a relatively affordable price.

As the gilding is prone to ware and in general, are rarer than solid silver boxes, these boxes can be of high value when in good condition to collectors who look to add to their silver collection with a unique hint of gold tone.  

4) Repousse & Decorative Snuff Boxes

Repousse Silver Table Snuff Box

Repousse High Relief Silver Snuff Box

Above: The first box features an acathus and floral motif repousse design. The second box is a highly detailled countryside scene which also uses repousse technique (click photos for more info).

Repousse refers to a process in which a malleable metal is hammered from the interior/reverse side to create a relief. 

The hammered designs thus appear in a more three dimensional and raised manner. The inside of the box will have the opposite effect where indentations of the repousse can be seen.

Antique Silver Snuff Boxes Artisan Antiques

Although in today's short blog, we have only covered a few of the vast collections and designs across the globe. Hopefully, this gives you a start-up guide to the different types of snuff boxes. 

You can search the internet with these terms and take a look at the many kinds of snuff boxes to see which interests you the most both in terms of aesthetics and the crafting techniques involved to make such boxes.

All the boxes photographed above and 50+ more are available on our website.

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