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Antique Early 1800s French Confectioner's Box, Casket for Chocolates, later for Jewelry, Trinket. Casein & ormolu
Antique Palais Royal boutiques souvenir trinket box or chocolates or confectioner's box made with a casein material that mimics mother of pearl and tortoise shell, but is more similar in appearance to a later production material, celluloid. These boxes were often the gift box for confections in the early 1800s, when Paris and French confectioners had the boxes specially made as the souvenir that presented their wares and remained a memento for the recipient. Chocolate was serious business in late 1700s through mid-1800s and the boxes survive to tell a story about it. These sometimes are marked with the name of the chocolatier, such as the famed "Boissier", one of the most famous of the early chocolatiers. They make wonderful collections, topics for conversation. We're always pleased when we find them with signature, but many of this type of early box found its start as presentation box for a candy maker. Aren't they fun!
Very good condition for this type of item. The slabs of faux mother of pearl and shell are quite long on this interesting basket-weave styled one, yet aren't much damaged or busted, cracked. The panels are mounted within a brass framework like you see here, and the framework on this one is both fully intact and quite extraordinarily charming with the engraved belting that forms a hinged latch as well. A handle up top, the casket could have been used as a purse or a jewelry box after the initial use of chocolate confections box. The old silk lining and trim remains inside, but is fairly tattered as you see and has some staining. Also a later application of a small early photo of a child. Isn't it wonderful! Please review our photos to see all the little bends or imperfections that are always commonly found in this type of trinket casket. Remember the age and type. This one is really super, and large at 8" x 5.5" oval, a height of 2.5" without the handle up. You'll note the old casein strips have some splits, easily seen in our large clear images. This is very natural to this material and typical of the age, type item.
NOTE on casein: The faux mother of pearl panels are casein, (substance made of milk proteins, by the French, and a mimic for slab-work to look like tortoise shell and mother of pearl and ivory items. It is not mother of pearl shell, though some make the mistake of thinking it is. One way you can tell, apart from the obvious textural difference, is the larger unnatural slabs and the way they are pliant in form - mother of pearl does not arch or mold, is a brittle substance not suitable to the form you see in this box. The knee-jerk identification of the old casein as natural shell (tortoise for instance) results in mistaken identity so we're trying to educate. You can often tell because the casein tended to crackle into sections as you see in this one. This is not to say it is worth less. You will find reference to faux tortoise shell used in boulle clocks sold on Bonhams and other international auction houses that identify this casein based boulle work material also as 'faux', yet the prices are sky high (the one I'm looking at just now is Lot 104, sold in London at $6383 plus premium).
Sometimes we see this same material used in these boulle boxes and the coloration is blue or pink - it's quite obviously not natural shell. Likewise, the ones we are listing or have listed that mimic mother of pearl are quite obviously not that natural substance. We work hard to know what we're doing, what we're offering, and its history.
Our photos are large and clear. We do expect our customers to review them all, evaluate the item based on both our description and our images. Thanks for all the compliments - we love what we do! Antiques & Uncommon Treasure - all the best, all the time!
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Susan Dean, San Marcos, CA
Antique French sterling silver, Georgian jewelry, sewing, Black Forest, etc 17th to 19th c. European
All the BEST, all the time! You've made us the #1 Most Visited RL shop for 13+ years. Thanks!