Agate & Silver Betel Box
length (approx.): 6.5cm
This solid silver box with a banded agate top with bevelled edges inset into the hinged lid is chased on all sides with Chinese -style figures and birds amid foliage. The figures most likely represent several of the eight immortals. The edge of the lid is chased with repeated prunus or plum blossom motifs.
The base is stamped with the Chinese characters for ‘Xiang He’, meaning ‘calm’ or ‘tranquility’. This is either the maker or retailer’s brandname.
The box was intended for use as part of a betel nut set, to hold part of the ingredients for the betel quid.
Ostensibly, the box appears to be from mainland China – it is chased with Chinese themes and has a Chinese mark to the base – but it is in fact the product of ethnic Chinese silversmiths operating in Thailand and almost certainly in Bangkok’s Chinatown (known as the Yaowarat district near to the western bank of Chao Phraya River). The fact that the box is intended for betel, its form, and the use of agate in the lid all suggest a Bangkok rather than a mainland Chinese provenance. Most Thai silversmiths were ethnically Chinese – indeed, many if not most of Bangkok’s residents, then as now, had at least some ethnic Chinese ancestry.
Naengnoi Punjabhan, Silverware in Thailand, Rerngrom Publishing, 1991.
UK art market
Inventory no.: 1762