07/09/2023     Latest News

An exceptional collection of snuffboxes will feature in our Silver, Fine Art & Antiques Sale on Wednesday 13 September with two stand-out pieces attracting individual price estimates of up to £25,000. 

Put up for sale by a private collector, the 17 boxes include some rare examples from the early 1700s onwards and are of a quality seldom seen outside the London salerooms. 

One outstanding piece is an ornate German jewelled gold and enamel Royal presentation snuffbox dating from the mid-19th century. It depicts the Imperial Russian crown for Nicholas I (1825-1855), which is framed by a diamond border and flanked by six diamonds. It has been valued between £15,000 and £25,000. 

Also of particular note is a fine Russian gold and enamel snuff box made by Pierre Theremin, St Petersburg, in1800. Its lid has been painted after a well-known painting by William Beechey - Portrait of Sir Francis Ford's Children Giving a Coin to a Beggar Boy (1793). 

The children in question are Francis Ford and Mary Ford, whose father, Sir Francis Ford (1758-1801) of Ember Court, Thames Ditton, Surrey, was a wealthy politician and the owner of extensive property in the West Indies. The original painting is at Tate Britain. Sir William Beechey (1753-1839) became Queen Charlotte's official portrait painter in 1793, and his full-length portraits of her and King George III hang in the Grand Staircase at Buckingham Palace. The box also carries a price estimate of £15,000 - £25,000.

Another showstopper is a rare Swedish gold-mounted porphyry snuffbox with an inset micromosaic panel depicting Pliny’s doves, attributed to the Italian artist Giacomo Raffaelli (1753-1835).

Raffaelli was trained as a painter and sculptor and became a master in Florentine hardstone mosaics and Roman micromosaics. His family had supplied the Vatican Mosaic Workshop with smalti, the material used for micromosaics. In 1775, he gave the first exhibition, which led to a brilliant career in which he produced many works, ranging from mosaic floors, tables, and monumental clocks to miniature mosaics small enough to fit on a snuffbox or brooch. The box is expected to reach between £5,000 and £7,000.

As well as the high-end pieces there are also a number of boxes that carry lower price estimates, which would be of interest to those wishing to start a collection. One such example is a silver snuffbox made by Francis Clark in Birmingham in 1841 that has a guide price of £200-£300.

Snuffboxes were used for containing snuff, a mixture of ground tobacco and scented oils, and were very popular in the 18th century when snuff-taking was fashionable. Netflix’s Regency drama Bridgerton portrays Queen Charlotte snorting snuff. Indeed, the real Queen Charlotte, wife of George III, was a regular snuff taker and was known as ‘Snuffy Charlotte’. 

Highly decorated and valuable objects, they became collectors’ items in the 19th century and today collecting snuffboxes is becoming ever more popular.