Snuff bottle

by Dr. Lori Verderame

Snuff bottles were introduced to England and America in the early 1800s. Prior to that date, snuff bottles were used by Chinese men and women for the easy transport of snuff. What is snuff? a finely ground drug that was intended to be inhaled through the nostrils.

When snuff arrived in China during the 1700s, laws restricted its use to the upper echelon of society. As a result, expensive snuff storage bottles or snuff boxes were made specifically for the upper classes and were the mark of the upper class. These intricately crafted bottles and boxes were made from brightly colored precious materials which presented the opportunity to display the beautiful objects and protect the coveted snuff. They are great examples of the artistry of drug paraphernalia.

Art of the Snuff Bottle

A major trend in the arts of the Chiang dynasty was miniaturization and the ability to demonstrate craft production in miniature was highly regarded. Snuff bottles were popular as they allowed craftsmen to show their abilities and skill. The best bottles decorated with enamel were not intended to be used at all, but rather were on display as works of art to be appreciated. The bottles that were used daily were those made of hard stones such as jade, agate, and crystal for repeated use and durability.

Value of Snuff Bottles

Today, the Orientalia market (objects of Asian origin) is very active and snuff bottles range widely in size, quality, materials, and value. Carved, painted, or decorated snuff bottles show the exquisite taste and workmanship of Asian artisans. Most snuff bottles do not measure more than 2 1/2 inches high and are made of amber, jade, ivory or cinnabar. They typically have tiny spoons attached to the cork stopper top for ease of scooping the snuff.

Actual retail market values for snuff bottles depend on the several factors as well as their current condition, but they can range in value well into the thousands of dollars for one tiny bottle.

Request an online appraisal of your snuff bottle from Dr. Lori.