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Snuff Bottles

Guanxi88Guanxi88 Member
edited May 2012 in Snuff Accessories
Hello, all. I thought, apropos of the discussions yesterday about Chinese snuff and such, that I'd ask a question of you more experienced snuffers out there about gear.

Specifically, I'm asking about the agate, jade, and so forth snuff bottles. These used to be in fairly common use among the literati class, and were affected by the well-off. Some were just hollowed-out pebbles, while others were far more elaborate, with carvings and such that make the mind boggle as the eye squints to see how it was done.

Anywho, I import jade jewelry and such, and had always seen the suppliers for these things and was sort of mystified, as I thought of them as sort of souvenirs and curios for the tourist trade. The Chinese still make, collect, and present these little things, most frequently as ceremonial gifts for scholars and such-like. The prices the suppliers quote range from the ridiculous (some specimens at a few bucks per) to the insane (others have some that are sold for hundreds and could retail for thousands, to the right buyer), with quality of materials and workmanship roughly in line with these prices.

I've attached photos of a few specimens from one jade workshop I've dealt with in the past. They supply highly-carved jade bangles for me, and their workmanship is always very good.

Any thoughts on whether these might be worth bringing in?


  • edited June 2009 PM
    Really depends on the quality, how functional they are and the total price. That pierced design on the bottom doesn't look like it could hold any appreciable quantity of snuff. The top one looks like it may have one of those completely impractical screw-in stoppers.
  • @ snuffgrinder

    I had similar reservations about the bat-shaped one on the bottom. They make a range of these, but they tend to be a bit smallish - fit well in the hand, as it were. They tell me the stoppers are all ground to fit - no threads, thank goodness.

    I suppose part of the smallishness of them arises from the material - this is jeweler's jade - and the largely ceremonial function these bottles used to serve. Evidently, the really ornate ones were for use at gatherings and functions, and were used as a form of conspicuous taste, for lack of a better word. The better snuffs, from what I read, were treasured, hence the small quantities in these bottles.

    I've seen some larger ones made from glass and agate, which seem more practical for walking around with. (mostly flattish in profile, and hold about 2 or 3 teaspoons of superfine (think scotch) snuff. Just something I'm kicking around.
  • Of course, jade is jade, too. If one of those could actually hold about 1 rounded teaspoon of snuff; I would definitely be interested.
  • cstokes4cstokes4 Member, Moderator
    How much would these cost?
  • These are carved from jade mined in China, and would run about 85 to 100 dollars per, when all was said and done. They're on the higher end of the mid-range. Ones carved out of agate and other stones are less, but then, they're not jade.

    Some of the agate and shoushan stones look interesting; I think maybe I'll drop my guy a line and ask him about them, too. I've requested already a sample from these guys, who assure me they'll get one out to me when they get around to it. :)
  • cstokes4cstokes4 Member, Moderator
    Out of my price range...
  • Yeah, outta mine, too, unless I've got enough goodwill built up with them that they'll send that sample in my lifetime. It's a funny thing, though, that the older ones that are knocking around hither, thither, and yon should be so much cheaper than the new ones. Chalk it up to the price of labor, to an extent, but I can't escape the feeling that they're asking too darned much, even if it is good jade.

    The agate and such should be cheaper, as the raw materials are more commonly available, and lack the cache that jade enjoys.
  • I suggest you check ebay to get an idea about how much people are willing to pay.
    While we will really use our bottles to store snuff, many more just collect them for their aesthetic value. So the more interesting the snuff bottle looks, the more money it will be able to fetch, regardless of its practical value.
  • @ itsuke

    Part of the pricing may just be that whole dance we always do whenever I'm looking to add something to the offerings. Another part of it may be that I'm dealing with jewelers, by and large, and these guys go over-the-top when it comes to finish and such, and take a lot of pride in their work.

    There's a ton of junk on ebay, sad to say. The better stuff gets swallowed up in a mass of crap; if you had any idea how lousy, fraudulent, and outright crooked some of the "jade" brokers who operated there were, it'd fill your eyes with tears of pure rage. I think that a lot of the tourist-trade trinkets have made it here, and folks are used to lower grade stuff, by and large. The few examples of better jade I've seen on the online auction sites are usually mislabeled as antiques (I've snickered a few times when I see stuff from my suppliers' workshops sold as antiques; the workmanship is so good, and people are so - forgive the pun - jaded by the souvenir trade crap that anything half-way decent must be an antique, to their way of thinking); it's rank dishonesty to label as an antique a newly-made article, but I can see why some of them do it - nobody would pay the real price for a decent hunk of jade otherwise.

    Take a look at the jade bangles on ebay. OK - the ones selling "Burma" jade are probably breaking the law, since you can't import any more from there, but let's just say that the pieces really are Burma jade, and really are, if not A grade, at least acceptable and unmodified - wholesale pricing on those was around $200.00 per, in lots of ten. Whatever they're selling now - usually xiu jade, agate, or stained hardstone imitations - can't cost more than a few dollars per; they're making a killing, and giving real jade a bad reputation. I ought to know - one of the biggest obstacles my company faces is in persuading retailers that our stuff is priced right, and they always invoke ebay as a counter-example.
  • I think you would struggle to shift them in the present climate. We don't use them much in the West anyway and add to that the recession??
  • Yeah, sad to say, they'd be a sort of specialist item; a very specialist item. More's the pity; I'd hoped to combine my interest in jade with my new-found interest in snuff, but it's just not to be, from a business standpoint, anyway.
  • Word of my interest in the snuff bottles has filtered its way through my little guanxiwang (network) - I've found a few suppliers of mid-level agate and carnelian bottles, and, believe it or not, a tone of those cloisonné and enamel ones, too. Tons of "peking glass," of course, but those are kinda gaudy.

    There are also folks making snuff bottles out of single joints of bamboo - pretty slick, and even a few who make them out of walnuts with stoppers carved from peach pits. Very neat, but strictly a table-top item.

    I'm looking now to see whether anyone out there can supply simple glass snuff bottles, with spoons attached to stoppers, for more prosaic use.
  • bobbob Member
  • @Guanxi88

    Take a look at these bottles on aliexpress

    snuff bottles

    Does anyone have any experience with them ? Any good ?

  • @yisraeldov Glass vials  make a hell of a racket in the pocket. Check out Jonny Dingo about alittle way past way down the page .   

    My knowledge is worthless if not shared and applied . "Joseph McKenna"  
  • @basement_shaman I saw that post a while ago, but I'm look for something a bit more, umm can't think of the word in English, modest, less showy ?

    I like taking with a spoon, and I'm not a heavy user, so the small vials with the spoon attached seemed like a good solution.

    What kind of racket do they make ? What else do you have in your pocket ?  
  • @yisraeldov you should be able to get away with one bottle in your pocket, though as the post seems to read caring a few different snuffs in separate bottles would cause a racket (glass on glass contact).

  • Also I saw something over on reddit, about how to get the Plastic bullets to work.

    I'm going to add one of those bottles from Mr. Snuff in my next order, and see how it goes.
  • @yisraeldov I don't use bullets I've purchased a aluminium one when I fist started snuffing, I was using McChrystals O&G and it worked alright. Once I starting pinching though I figured out I could have alot more snuff in a short period of  time when I was working. I have never tried the Toque bullets they seem rather expensive and only contain a small amount of snuff.
  • @aamon

    @MrSnuff has some Toque bullets for 0.99 so they are cheaper than buying empty bullets. I remember there being more, specifically I ordered the blueberry and peppermint about a month and 1/2 ago, and I dont see them any more.

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