Feature: Chinese Snuff Bottles While taking snuff may have fallen out of favor, snuff bottles continue to be treasured Chatelaine's Antiques Collectibles Appraisals

 

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The Market for Chinese Snuff Bottles

European Snuff Bottles and Boxes


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Chinese Snuff Bottles
 
 While taking snuff may have fallen out of favor, snuff bottles continue to be treasured
This rare enameled and carved Imperial snuff bottle sold for an amazing $134, 500 at a recent Sotheby's auction
This rare enameled and
carved Imperial snuff
bottle sold for an amazing
$134,500 at a recent
eBay auction

A History of Snuff

To appreciate the Chinese snuff bottle as a collectible, one has to know something of the history of snuff. Early references to the invention of snuff are vague, although most believe that it began with the arrival of smoking tobacco in Japan during the late 16th century. Some scholars credit the Japanese with introducing snuff to China, where its use exceeded that of any other country in the Far East.

Originally introduced as a medicine, snuff was very popular among the Chinese aristocracy for the exhilarating feeling that it produced. By 1680, Imperial workshops were established in the Forbidden City in Beijing. Here craftsmen produced the most elaborate snuff bottles for the Chinese aristocracy. During the reign of the Qianlong emperor between 1736-1795, snuff bottle production reached its height in China.

Collecting Bottles

Chinese snuff bottles are highly functional works of art. As a mixture of powdered tobacco, herbs and spices, snuff has a tendency to cake easily in humid environments. The dense humidity of the climate in the Far East led to the invention of 2 to 3 inch high containers fitted with a top. Fastened to the inside of the top is an interior ladle that ends with a tiny spoon, from which the snuff is inhaled through the nostril.

 
Chinese
Chinese deeply molded silver snuff bottle
with monkey motif
Chinese Snuff Bottles come in a variety of materials, and collectors will often focus on a certain medium or decorative subject matter. Porcelain is the most common medium, although there are overwhelming choices in jade, agate, glass, silver, ivory and lacquer.

Each year, the highlight of the fall season for international collectors of Asian art revolves around AsiaWeek. In New York during the third week of September, international dealers and collectors descend upon the city for a busy schedule of shows and viewings. This season's Asia Week will be of particular interest to snuff bottle collectors, as the major auction houses will feature a strong selection.

 



Click here to view the Royal Doulton site

Chinese Snuff Bottles
(Images of Asia)

by Robert Kleiner

The Collector's Book of Snuff Bottles by Bob Stevens; Hardcover

Chinese Snuff Bottles: A Guide to Addictive Miniatures
by Trevor Cornforth, Nathan Cheung (Hardcover - September 2002)

Bottles of Delight: The Thal Collection of Chinese Snuff Bottles
by Jennifer Chen, Robert Hall

Journal Of The International Chinese Snuff Bottle Society [MAGAZINE SUBSCRIPTION] -- 3 issues/12 months

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