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Snuff box

  • Place of origin:

    England (made)

  • Date:

    1800-1900 (made)

  • Artist/Maker:

    Unknown (maker)

  • Materials and Techniques:

    Mahogany (probably), mother of pearl, brass piqué work

  • Credit Line:

    Given by Messrs Harrods Ltd.

  • Museum number:


  • Gallery location:

    In Storage

Snuff, or powdered tobacco, was widely popular throughout Europe from the 17th century. Sniffed from the back of the hand, from pinched fingers or from a spoon, snuff was enjoyed on social occasions and would be placed on the table or passed around a group. Thousands of small portable boxes to contain the powder were made as personal accessories, often in novel designs, to be given as gifts.

Shoe- and boot-shaped snuff boxes were made throughout the 18th and 19th centuries. Shoes have long been associated with love and marriage and were often given for good luck. This carved wooden snuff box is inlaid with fine mother of pearl in diamond-, crescent- and heart-shapes, suggesting that it may have been a love token. Detailing in the form of stitching and buttons is made of metal inlay and piqué work (short lengths of metal wire fixed in small holes drilled into the wood). Metal inlays also decorate the sole. The top of the shoe is hollowed out to hold the snuff, and a single piece of mother-of-pearl makes a sliding lid. The size and weight of this box suggests it was probably placed on the table at social gatherings rather than carried around for personal use.

Physical description

Snuff box of carved wood decorated with brass piqué work.

Place of Origin

England (made)


1800-1900 (made)


Unknown (maker)

Materials and Techniques

Mahogany (probably), mother of pearl, brass piqué work


Length: 13 cm, Width: 13 cm

Historical context note

Part of Messrs Harrods gift

Descriptive line

Snuff box, carved wood with brass piqué work, English, 19th century


Wood; Mother of pearl; Metal


Carving; Inlay; Piqué work


Tableware & cutlery; Smoking accessories; Containers; Personal accessories


Furniture and Woodwork Collection

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