During the 16th century, snuff began to be used by the Chinese and Mongolians, in order to bypass the laws forbidding the use of tobacco. Although smoking the substance was illegal, it was allowed to be sniffed in a powdered form on account of its ‘medical’ benefits. The powder was commonly stored in small, handheld bottles with a stopper and small spoon. With the increasing popularity of snuff, the bottles containing the powder became more decorated and elegantly designed. These bottles were crafted from opulent materials such as jade and ivory, as well as glass and wood. Whilst some bottles remained plain, others were intricately carved with symbols and patterns. Antique and rare snuff bottles are highly sought after on the collectors’ market, with some being of great value. In 2011, an 18th century enamelled glass snuff bottle from the palace workshops in Beijing sold for over $3 million at a Bonhams auction in Hong Kong.
Thinking of starting a collection of Chinese porcelain? Here are the periods, dynasties and styles to look out for.