Saturday, 16 July 2011

A Phipps & Robinson Silver Snuff Box

Silver Snuff Box by Phipps & Robinson, London 1810

This rather nice silver snuff box, made by Phipps & Robinson and hallmarked for London, 1810, is one of my recent acquisitions. I was attracted to its clean, Georgian lines (subtle and understated compared to the flowery excesses of later, Victorian boxes) and more particularly to the fact that it already has my inititals engraved on the lid.
The hinge
The hinge is in excellent condition, allowing the box to open and firmly close as well as it was intended and snuff leakage is minimal, as one would expect.
Gold washed interior
The original gilding is present, though a little scratched in places and I did feel the need to give the interior a gentle wash with warm, soapy water and a soft cloth. This successfully removed the residue of old snuff without damaging the finish in any way. The marks on the inside of the lid turned out to be the remains of some sort of sticker and came away cleanly with the use of a small amount of 99% isopropyl alcohol.
The hallmarking is nice and clear and present on both body and lid, as one would expect.
The all important (to me) initials
As can be seen in the photographs, the one small issue with the box is that over the years it has been fairly aggressively polished, resulting in some loss of definition of the lined pattern and the monogram, yet that decorative 'TB' in the central cartouche is still perfectly legible. There is a warning in this - be careful when polishing silver!
Hinge detail
As can be seen above, there is evidence of slight bumping to the corners of the box, though realistically this is to be expected of a snuff box with 201 years of use behind it. It doesn't detract at all for me. In fact I like the signs that the box and been used and loved. What I would give to know who had owned it in the past and which snuffs they filled it with!
Underside of the box
Front edge
In spite of the aggressive polishing the box still weighs in at an impressive 81g retaining a good thickness of silver throughout. Dimensions are 75mm x 45mm x 15mm - perfect for a pocket snuff box. It currently has Mullins & Westley's Jock's Choice in it. I swear it tastes better out of an antique silver box than the tin it came in!
From what I have been able to find out,  Thomas Phipps (-1823) and Edward Robinson (-1816) had premises at 40, Gutter Lane, London. They produced mostly fine boxes (snuff boxes, nutmeg graters and vinaigrettes) in silver and gold, but also wine labels, knife stands, apple corers and other domestic items.

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