A magnificent silverplate example, it combines guilloche work (executed on brilliant cobalt blue enamel) with silver work which is inset with marcasite (Marcasite is a genuine, natural gemstone. Marcasite is derived from a natural mineral called 'pyrite'). The box is Russian and originates from a Parisian estate sale. It dates circa 1870.
Guilloche or engine turning is the term given to very fine, intricate geometric patterns which are mechanically engraved into soft materials such as wood, silver and gold. The machine used to produce this effect is called a lathe which uses a rotating drive which turns the piece being worked on against changeable cutting tools. A rose engine lathe was introduced later, which allowed for more intricate design and repetition of motif.
The history of guilloche can be traced back to the 15th century, first practiced on wood. In the European courts of the 17th and 18th century this work rose to prevalence. In the late 19th century it was combined with gold or silver to produce jewel-like objects.
The box is heavy and has one visible maker's/silver mark (it tests .925 silver). The lid is a mastery work of hand cut, hand hammered silver. Mounted on top of the blue guilloche enamel, the box presents a large bouquet of flowers which flow around the inner edges of the silver frame, uniting with a ribbon festoon at the top center. The flowers are set with tiny marcasite stones. The basket is tooled with realistic "reed" detailing, the flowers and leaves have delicate channeled edges which holds the stones into place. There is a large "hammer" and a scythe which cross together behind the flower basket. The outer frame (1/4") is engraved with repeating diamonds and dots. The lid opens with a "lip" shaped mount to reveal a plain interior. There is a fine hinge at the back (working).
The symbolism of the scythe and hammer are curious; perhaps they stood for a society of group. They are a very classic Russian symbol which represents the unity of the industrial working class proletariat and rural peasantry.
It measures: 3 1/8" x 2 1/2", and is 1" tall. It is in very good antique condition; the enamel retains it's brilliant hue, the silver work intact, the marcasite stones intact. There a some small indentations along the outer side typical with age and use.
It is a rare and unique example with a mastery work of hand cut silver on enamel.
RARE and Extravagant Russian Antique 19th Century Guilloche and Marcasite Silver Snuff Box