A jadeite snuff bottle

18th-19th century

The well hollowed bottle is of slightly tapering rounded form with a broad flaring neck and flat base. The smoothly polished stone is of icy green tone with bright apple-green inclusions. The stopper is made from carnelian agate with gilt-metal collar.

5.4 cm high without stopper



Sold at Christie’s New York, 23 March 1995, lot no. 196

A Hong Kong private collection

Snuff bottles were collectible items for the emperor as well as the scholar. They continued to be made in all kinds of materials, even when the habit of snuff was no longer fashionable. Snuff (ground tobacco) was introduced to China by the Jesuits at the end of the Ming dynasty. The habit spread rapidly among members of the court in Beijing but only became a nation-wide habit at the beginning of the 19th century. The acceptance of snuff among the Chinese owes much to the belief that it had medical and invigorating properties. 

The Chinese word for jade, yu, is generally seen as the name for two distinctly different minerals, jadeite and nephrite. The distinction between the two is that nephrite has been used by the Chinese since ancient times, whereas jadeite only became available from the middle of the eighteenth century following its importation from Burma.

Jadeite is harder than nephrite and can be polished to a very high gloss as can be seen on the present bottle. A very similar bottle is illustrated by Bob Stevens.


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