A rare figural snuff box in the form of a man’s head; complete with long straggly beard, large ears and night cap. Probably Old Man Time. The smooth, hinged back opens to take the snuff. The quality and definition of the decoration is very good and the box sits very well in the hand. Weight 34 grams, 1.09 troy ounces. Length 7 cms. Width (max) 5 cms. Sterling silver. Fully marked on the back above the hinge with English silver hallmarks for Sheffield 1828. Maker probably William Nowell.
This unusual little snuff box is in very good condition with no damage or restoration. Fully stamped with English silver hallmarks, the makers mark is slightly rubbed on the right hand side. There are small, very negligible signs of use, in keeping with its age, such as tiny dinks on the edge of the opening where the fingernail has opened the cover and a couple of minor dinks on the top edge.
Please note that this item is not new and will show moderate signs of wear commensurate with age. Reflections in the photograph may detract from the true representation of this item.
The practice of grinding tobacco leaves for personal use, by inhaling the powder, was first recorded in 1650. This habit soon became popular and created a demand for snuff boxes. These were made in two sizes; personal boxes to fit in a waistcoat pocket which would hold a small quantity, enough for immediate consumption, and communal boxes made for table use. People of all social classes used these boxes when snuff was at its peak of popularity and the wealthy carried a variety of fancy snuff boxes in precious metals, with jewels, enamels and portrait miniatures. Boxes made for the poorer snuff takers were more ordinary; popular and cheap boxes were made in papier-mâché and even potato-pulp, which made durable boxes that kept the snuff in good condition. Even after snuff-taking ceased to be a general habit, the practice lingered among diplomats, doctors, lawyers and other professionals as well as members of professions where smoking was not possible, such as miners and print workers. Monarchs retained the habit of bestowing snuff-boxes upon ambassadors and other intermediaries as a form of honor.