SILVER SNUFF BOX HISTORY & VALUATIONS

Silver Snuff Boxes

History of Snuff Boxes

Snuff powders are used to store tobacco powder for inhalation.  The practice of snuffing began in the late 15th century, when tobacco use became popular among Europeans after the discovery of the New World. By the time Charles II was reigning in the mid-17th century, inhaling snuff was popular even among women. In the early 18th century the nobility began favouring the use of snuff.

In the late 18th century, craftsmen began producing decorative boxes intended to keep the powdered tobacco dry between uses. Through the 19th century, the snuff box was an essential personal item for members of all social classes. Silver snuff boxes are the prime surviving examples from that period.

Snuff Taking

Craftsmen used fine metals like silver and gold and other materials like ivory, horn or tortoise shell to create the boxes. The boxes came both in a large size meant for table use, and a small size intended for personal use. The pocket-sized boxes held enough snuff for one or two day’s personal use.

Snuff boxes were most often rectangular, but some were shaped like ovals, trunks, or shells. They were sometimes decorated with hand-painted landscapes, portraits, or cameos. The most distinctive snuff boxes were set with fine jewels and engraved or enamelled. Some were inset with decorative shells and mother-of-pearl.

Silver snuff boxes were made primarily in Sheffield during the 1700s and others were produced in Birmingham during the late 1800s. Castles, monuments, and abbeys were depicted on the silver snuff box lids and sides. Birmingham craftsmen also created snuff boxes of papier-mâché, then made them strong with enamel layers.

After the popularity of snuffing faded, the practice was retained among certain professions where smoking was prohibited, such as mining. Former smokers also favoured snuff and continued to use snuff boxes. The monarchy gifted snuff boxes to ambassadors in honour ceremonies.

What affects the value of silver snuff boxes

Castle Top Silver Snuff Box

Castle Top
Snuff Boxes

One of the most sought after group of snuff boxes are castle top snuff boxes.  These have a view of a famous landmark die stamped onto the top and were made as souvenirs.  We can learn more about castle top silver here.

Macallan Whisky Worth

Novelty Silver Snuff Boxes

Arguably as collectable and valuable as castle top snuff boxes are novelty snuff boxes.  The snuff box illustrated above is a Masonic snuff box and would be worth over £1,000 if it came to market.  The more unusual the shape the better. 

What is a snuff box worth

Hardstone Mounted Snuff Boxes

It was common to mount silver snuff boxes with a hardstone.  The pinnacle of hardstone mounted boxes was the middle of the 18th century when gold was used to mount precious stones like agate and lapis lazuli.

What is a snuff box worth?

Silver Gilt
Snuff Boxes

Snuff can damage plain silver, but as gold is inert it resists corrosion.  To stop snuff damaging the silver the inside of most snuff boxes is coated with a layer of gold.  However, sometimes a silversmith would have the entire box gilded and they are very sought after.

Macallan Whisky Worth

Table Snuff Boxes

There are two sizes of snuff box: pocket and table. Pocket snuff boxes are common and were made for personal use. Table snuff boxes were made to be used communally and are much larger. They were often given as presentation items and might have an engraving on which can add value. 

Scottish Silver Snuff Mull

Scottish Silver Snuff Boxes

There was a large number of snuff boxes made in Scotland. The most common are like the one pictured above and are often called snuff mulls. The horn is hollowed out at the top and mounted with a silver clasp. They are quite valuable especially when they have been made by a rare silversmith.

Silver Snuff Boxes

History of Snuff Boxes

Snuff powders are used to store tobacco powder for inhalation.  The practice of snuffing began in the late 15th century, when tobacco use became popular among Europeans after the discovery of the New World. By the time Charles II was reigning in the mid-17th century, inhaling snuff was popular even among women. In the early 18th century the nobility began favouring the use of snuff.

In the late 18th century, craftsmen began producing decorative boxes intended to keep the powdered tobacco dry between uses. Through the 19th century, the snuff box was an essential personal item for members of all social classes. Silver snuff boxes are the prime surviving examples from that period.

Snuff Taking

Craftsmen used fine metals like silver and gold and other materials like ivory, horn or tortoise shell to create the boxes. The boxes came both in a large size meant for table use, and a small size intended for personal use. The pocket-sized boxes held enough snuff for one or two day’s personal use.

Snuff boxes were most often rectangular, but some were shaped like ovals, trunks, or shells. They were sometimes decorated with hand-painted landscapes, portraits, or cameos. The most distinctive snuff boxes were set with fine jewels and engraved or enamelled. Some were inset with decorative shells and mother-of-pearl.

Silver snuff boxes were made primarily in Sheffield during the 1700s and others were produced in Birmingham during the late 1800s. Castles, monuments, and abbeys were depicted on the silver snuff box lids and sides. Birmingham craftsmen also created snuff boxes of papier-mâché, then made them strong with enamel layers.

After the popularity of snuffing faded, the practice was retained among certain professions where smoking was prohibited, such as mining. Former smokers also favoured snuff and continued to use snuff boxes. The monarchy gifted snuff boxes to ambassadors in honour ceremonies.

What affects the value of silver snuff boxes

Castle Top Silver Snuff Box

Castle Top Snuff Boxes

One of the most sought after group of snuff boxes are castle top snuff boxes.  These have a view of a famous landmark die stamped onto the top and were made as souvenirs.  We can learn more about castle top silver here.

Macallan Whisky Worth

Novelty Silver Snuff Boxes

Arguably as collectable and valuable as castle top snuff boxes are novelty snuff boxes.  The snuff box illustrated above is a Masonic snuff box and would be worth over £1,000 if it came to market.  The more unusual the shape the better. 

What is a snuff box worth

Hardstone Mounted Snuff Boxes

It was common to mount silver snuff boxes with a hardstone.  The pinnacle of hardstone mounted boxes was the middle of the 18th century when gold was used to mount precious stones like agate and lapis lazuli.

What is a snuff box worth?

Silver Gilt Snuff Boxes

Snuff can damage plain silver, but as gold is inert it resists corrosion.  To stop snuff damaging the silver the inside of most snuff boxes is coated with a layer of gold.  However, sometimes a silversmith would have the entire box gilded and they are very sought after.

Macallan Whisky Worth

Table Snuff Boxes

There are two sizes of snuff box: pocket and table. Pocket snuff boxes are common and were made for personal use. Table snuff boxes were made to be used communally and are much larger. They were often given as presentation items and might have an engraving on which can add value. 

Scottish Silver Snuff Mull

Scottish Silver Snuff Boxes

There was a large number of snuff boxes made in Scotland. The most common are like the one pictured above and are often called snuff mulls. The horn is hollowed out at the top and mounted with a silver clasp. They are quite valuable especially when they have been made by a rare silversmith.