Asian Antiques Appraisals And Valuations

Understanding Chinese Antique Snuff Bottles

Snuff bottles, small containers used to hold ground tobacco, have captivated Western and Asian collectors since they first emerged in China during the early 18th century. Initially created for the emperor and court, they eventually became more widely produced for a public who appreciated their functionality and status as symbols.

These miniature bottles, typically measuring between 1.5 and 3 inches in height, showcase the technical skill of Qing dynasty craftsmen and offer insight into life and culture during late imperial China. For example, early 18th century imperial glass and painted enamel bottles reflect the influence of Jesuits at court and the imperial fascination with Western advancements. Carved examples in materials such as jade and glass demonstrate the relationships between craftsmen at imperial workshops and the favored motifs across materials. Later 19th century versions highlight how imperial tastes became popular with the general public and the continued status of snuff use in Qing society.

The collecting field for snuff bottles is diverse and encompasses a range of mediums such as glass, stone, jade, agate, wood, lacquer and mixed media. To develop a discerning eye for collecting, it is helpful to study a variety of examples. If you are particularly interested in a certain type, such as carved overlay glass, focus on that group to understand the nuances of workmanship. For example, one bottle may feature a rare color combination, while another may depict a rare scene or feature very fine carving.

One of the joys of collecting snuff bottles is handling them, so it is important to handle as many bottles as possible to get a sense of their weight, craftsmanship and surface texture. Prices for snuff bottles can vary greatly, with imperial glass snuff bottles available for under $3,000 and rare and exceptional examples fetching tens of thousands to over a million dollars at auction. Imperial 18th century bottles bearing reign marks and made for imperial use tend to command the highest prices. Painted enamel on glass or metal bottles are particularly sought after for their technical achievement in the imperial workshops of the early 18th century.


Chinese Antique Valuations And Appraisals

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