Collecting Guide: 5 Things to Know about Chinese Snuff Bottles
The tiny and exquisitely beautiful curiosities that once housed tobacco are highly prized. Specialist Margi Gristina advises on how
to start a collection.
The field of snuff
bottles is vast, and like other categories of Qing dynasty works of art they
include examples across many mediums: glass, stone, jade, agate, wood, ivory,
lacquer and mixed media.
To sharpen one’s eye, it is helpful to
look at as many examples as possible. If you’re attracted to a particular type,
such as carved overlay glass, focus on this group to understand subtle
differences in workmanship. For example, one bottle may exhibit a rare colour
combination, while others may show a rare scene, or very fine carving.
2. Handle as many as
Snuff bottles were made to fit
comfortably in the hand. One of the pleasures of collecting them is handling
them, so be sure to handle as many bottles as you can. Feel the difference in
weight between a well-hollowed bottle and one that has not been so carefully
refined. Notice the years of wear that can bring the surface of a piece to a
soft and luxurious polish.
3. Select the best -
whatever your price range.
your price range, look for outstanding examples. An imperial glass snuff bottle
can be acquired for under $3,000, while superb and rare examples can range from
tens to hundreds of thousands. Imperial, 18th-century bottles with reign marks
tend to achieve the highest prices at auction, particularly those in painted
enamel on glass or metal.
4. Seek established
There have been a number of
distinguished collections of snuff bottles sold at auction over the past 10
years. Selecting works that were once part of an esteemed and carefully
selected collection, such as theJ&J
Collection, can offer the novice collector a reassurance of
quality, authenticity and value.
starting any collection, it is useful to read as much about the category as
possible. There have been many informative books on snuff bottles published in
the last 20 years, filled with useful attribution information as well as
beautiful photography. Also, consult theJournal of the International Chinese Snuff Bottle Societyfor the most recent and up-to-date
scholarship. The ICSBS comprises a passionate group of collectors, dealers and
auction house specialists and holds annual conventions that are not to be
missed by the serious collector.
This article originally appeared on http://www.christies.com/features/Chinese-Snuff-Bottles-Collecting-Guide-7650-1.aspx