From Georgian and through Victorian times, wood boxes and caddies appeared everywhere in the traditional English country or town house. They were made to take care of every type of manufactured or hand-made small household articles. Some of the more popular forms included jewelry boxes, work boxes, tea caddies and stationary boxes. Good houses would not be complete without these pieces that were both functional and decorative.
This example combines the translucent quality of mother-of-pearl with the striking beauty of burr yew wood. The box designer centered a large piece of burr yew wood on the lid surrounded by a border of cross banded rosewood. To emphasize the difference in the grains of the two woods, he placed a long bar of mother-of-pearl with large donut-shaped rings interspersed around and in between them.
The front of the box repeats this design, with the burr wood in the middle and surrounded by rosewood. The combination of the two woods with the mother-of-pearl embellishments makes for a beautiful box. As burr wood is a rare wood, the cost would have been such that box designers would often combine it with other woods in order to obtain a fine effect without the high expense of an entire box made from it.
The brass lock has its original key. There is a large escutcheon of mother-of-pearl for it. However, due to its age of some 175 years, the lock is not fully functioning, in spite of having the key. The inside of the jewelry box was lined with a gray paper that is not original to it.
I have had this piece professionally restored and polished so that it is in ready-to-use condition. At one time a piece of red wool felt was put on the bottom so the box would not mar the polished finish of a table or dresser.
With its beautiful woods and pretty inlay of mother-of-pearl, this box would enhance anyone’s collection.
It measures about 10 inches wide, 7-1/8 inches and 4-1/4 inches high.
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