Inventory no.: 3495

Cambodian Animal-Form Betel Boxes


Unusually Large Silver & Copper Betel Box Shaped as a Tortoise, & a Smaller Example


circa 1920

bigger tortoise –

length: 30cm, height: 16cm, weight: 987g

smaller tortoise –

length: 11cm, height: 7.2cm, weight: 118g

These two fine and well-modelled betel boxes are from Cambodia, and date to around 1920. Unusually, they are not made from solid silver but from copper that has been silver plated. Both are in the form of tortoises.

The larger is simply one of the largest old Cambodian betel boxes that we have seen. It is enormous. The smaller example is more typical in size.

The larger is particularly well rendered. Its scales, the detail of its shell, and its bemused face are all striking.

Both separate into a bottom and a top half, and were used to store elements of the betel nut quid, a mild social narcotic.

Both are in excellent condition and are free of dents or repairs. The silvering is wearing thin here and there however. Both are very sculptural. The smaller serves to show just how large the bigger one is.


Rooney, D., Betel Chewing Traditions in South-East Asia, Oxford University Press, 1993.Provenance:

private collection, UK

Inventory no.: 3495


The small tortoise box.