This very unusual egg-shaped box most probably was made to hold a reel of cotton. The hinged lid flips open to reveal a central post around which cotton could have been wound.
The outside is chased with grapevines, grapes and squirrels or tree shews. Such motifs occasionally appear in Chinese export silver – see for example the cover photograph of Forbes (1975) and Marlowe (1990, p. 27, p. 43)
The top is fitted with a small silver eyelet through which is a small hoop.
The item is extremely well made – the walls are double-walled which is remarkable for such a small and curved item.
The box is not marked; no similar item with such a form seems to have been published. The item is in excellent condition.
Forbes, H.A.C. et al, Chinese Export Silver 1785-1885, Museum of the American China Trade, 1975.
Marlowe, A.J., Chinese Export Silver, John Sparks, 1990.