Here is a Victorian jewelry box made in the town of Tunbridge Wells as a souvenir for British tourists on holiday. Now known as Royal Tunbridge Wells, the town developed a very profitable 19th-century cottage industry. Residents constructed and sold wooden wares inlaid with mosaics of various British landscape and woodland scenes, castles, flowers, fruit, leaves, animals, butterflies, etc. This homespun craft died out soon after the turn of the twentieth century. The jewelry box here has been created with the typical Tunbridge Wells mosaic technique, invented by James Burrows about 1830: a bunch of long wooden sticks of different colors, each with a square cross section, was tightly glued together, then thin slices (veneers) were cut from the end of the composite block and glued to a surface. The sticks were carefully chosen and arranged so that, when cut, a mosaic scene appeared, using the colors of the natural wood. No dyes were used. This particular rosewood- and mosaic-veneered box has literally thousands of minute squares, making up the borders and bands, including the border for the tray on the inside. The top is very unusual, since it contains not a mosaic scene in wood but a very interesting photograph of a shoreline—probably the White Cliffs of Dover. The cliffs are in Kent, the same county as Tunbridge Wells. The photograph shows a view framed by picturesque and scraggly trees, with a rail for safety, along a walkway at the edge of a dropoff, and in the far distance are impressive cliffs and a very tiny sailboat out on the water. Of course, when this box was made in the 1890s photography was still a developing science (no pun intended). But sepia photography had become the very latest thing, and that makes this box an artifact for the collector of photographs as well. Sepia printing is a type of toning which happens during developing and differs chemically from a black and white developing. Sepia techniques began in earnest in the 1880s, partially to make photographs look better, but also because the chemicals involved in sepia printing aided in slowing down the aging of a photograph. The process was a preservative of sorts. This box is in excellent condition and has the original key. The photograph shows very little fading and one scratch and a couple of tiny cracks. The silk lining inside the box is intact, and there’s even a compartment in the tray that looks like it would hold a small lady’s watch or a compact. The paper lining has some small missing sections but paint has been used to color in the bare wood. The size is eight and one-eighth inches by three by five and a half. Original finish. Amazing condition for a fragile item so old. I would hope that former owners stored this in a dark place and only brought it out to impress guests!

A warm welcome! Please consider all our offerings, and feel free to inquire about more information. We’re always buying, so let us know if you have early porcelain items to sell.
England • English

Laureate Antiques

Tunbridge Wells Wood Jewelry Box Marquetry Mosaic Decoration Antique Sepia Photograph White Cliffs of Dover C.1895 Victorian Period.


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