Silver Betel Box
Shan People, North-Western Thailand or Burma
early 20th century
height: 13cm, diameter: 17.5cm, weight: 462g
This repoussed silver betel box comprises a base and a cover. The base sits on a flared foot which is mirrored by an equally flared rim around the top of the cover. The sides of the cover are decorated with sings of the Burmese/Shan zodiac within cartouches separated by panels filled with stylised birds amid foliage.
The top is filled with tight curls, not unlike the curls that adorn the heads of some Buddha images, arrayed in circles around a central stylised dragon-figure with applied silver horns.
The base is engraved with a circular motif infilled with zodiac-type animals within a petal border, all around a central roundel that has two lines of Thai script. The use of Thai rather than Burmese script suggests that the box originates with the Shan people of Thailand or the border areas of Burma.
Such a box was used to hold the components of the betel quid; betel being a mild social stimulant that was chewed.
Similar boxes are illustrated in Lewis & Lewis (1984, p. 66).
Lewis, P. & E. Lewis, Peoples of the Golden Triangle: Six Tribes in Thailand, Thames & Hudson, 1984.
UK private collection
Inventory no.: 1752