Here is a splendid sterling vinaigrette scent box from renowned British silversmiths Yapp & Woodward. The top and bottom have been decorated with a beautiful scalloped design. The lid's cartouche is not engraved so it can be personalized to the owner's preference.
The edges of the top and bottom exhibit a beautiful foliate-scroll design. As you can see, there is a small loop and bale on the top of the box; this would have allowed a lady to hang it from her chatelaine.
There are three die-stamped maker's marks on the underside of the lid; the first of these reads "Y&W", which stands for Yapp & Woodward.
This is followed by the lion passant and finally the Queen Victoria I duty stamp. Duty stamps like this were created to indicate that a tax on the item had been paid to the crown.
Yapp & Woodward were successful silversmith based in Birmingham; they are renowned for boxes like this one as well as calling card cases.
Upon opening the box you can see the delicate gilt screen that would have held a perfumed sponge. A hinge on one side of the screen allows it to be easily lifted and securely pushed down again.
Vinaigrettes, popular from the late 18th century through the mid-19th century, were small containers used for holding various aromatic substances, usually dissolved in vinegar. A tiny piece of sponge, soaked in the liquid, was contained beneath a grill or perforated cover.
Vinaigrettes were used by men and women, but by the 1820's is became almost exclusively a woman's accessory. Carried in a pocket or reticule, or suspended from a chatelaine at the waist, it was used as a little emergency tool in case the wearer encountered foul smells. And, if the wearer were to become "overwhelmed" with emotion, it would be near at hand to use for some restorative means.
In the era before the Civil War, "ladies" were expected to faint because of their delicate "constitution." We are certain it is because they were trussed up, tucked, laced and stuffed into heavy, hot dresses.
There are five more maker's marks stamped on the bottom of the box (under the screen). First is another "Y&W" stamp followed by the lion passant.
Next is another Queen Victoria duty mark, then the date mark ("W" for 1845) and finally, an anchor for Birmingham.
The Queen Victoria duty mark was abolished in 1890.
There is a fair amount of expected wear and patination under the screen where the perfumed sponge would have been kept, however the sterling remains in very good antique condition for this beauty that is about 166 years old!
Measurements: 35mm long, 23mm wide, 10mm tall Weight: 18.5 grams (0.65 oz)
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