Inventory no.: 2994

Sri Lankan Tortoiseshell Box


Round Tortoiseshell Box with Silver Mounts

Sri Lanka

17th-18th century

diameter: 11.6cm, height: 3cm

This low, round tortoiseshell box with richly-worked silver mounts is from Sri Lanka, and dates to around the 17th or 18th century, a dating based on the silver mounts which compare well with similar mounts on Sri Lankan ivory boxes in early European collections for which dated inventories exist.

For example, the silver lock and hinge flanges are similar to those used on round ivory boxes produced in Sri Lanka in the seventeenth century. See


for an example in the Victoria & Albert Museum. Jordan-Gschwend & Beltz (2010, P, 78) illustrate a similar ivory box with related gold mounts that they attribute to the sixteenth century.

The form of the box might well derive from traditional Sri Lankan lime containers which, normally made in cast brass, most probably in turn were based on the form of European pocket watch cases. Coomaraswamy (1956, p.328) illustrates a low, flat, round carved wooden box with brass mounts which, though larger, has some similarity in form to the box here which he calls a ‘regalia box’ (

abharana pettiya).

The box is in fine condition. There are some chips to the edges of the tortoiseshell covers where they close together, and a small but stable crack in one area but this can be expected given the age. The mounts are in excellent condition.


Coomaraswamy, A.K., Mediaeval Sinhalese Art, Pantheon Books, 1956 reprint of the 1908 edition.

Jacquot, C.,

et al, Les Ivoires, Tardy, 1977.

Jordan-Gschwend, A., & J. Beltz,

Elfenbeine aus Ceylon: Luxusguter fur Katharina von Habsburg (1507-1578), Museum Rietberg, 2010.

de Silva, P.H.D.H.,

A Catalogue of Antiquities and Other Cultural Objects from Sri Lanka (Ceylon) Abroad, National Museums of Sri Lanka, 1975.Provenance:

UK art market

Inventory no.: 2994