Agate snuff bottle
Agate is one of the materials that can be used in the making of snuff bottle. The material is made up of different colors that occur in layers thus forming the strip structure. The material is usually semi-luscent.
the colors are: green, yellow, red, brown, white and blue. Cording to the pattern of the colors and the materials forming the agate that have different types of agates which include: sardonyx agate, moss agate and castle agate. Agate is thus a rock in crystalline structure.
The rocks usually consist of silica. During the rein of Qing dynasty the European introduced snuff to the court of the kingdom. The use of snuff became popular due to the believe that it had the capacity of curing headache, stomach disorder and other diseases. Due to this popularity of snuff, bottles were introduced to carry this substance hence the making of the snuff bottle where the agate snuff bottle came into being.
It was given that name because it was made from agate material. The agate material was mostly used for the carving process. These bottle was very popular among the people because of its natural beauty.
the material not only made the bottles it could also be used to make the stopper that could be used for closing the bottle so that the content could not fall out.
The production of this bottle was very easy. The craftsmen who did the job were highly trained in the empire and thus there names could not appear on the object but only those of the emperor. The bottles were carved modeled into different shapes. Some could be square while others were round. Because the material had more than two different types of color it was referred to as qiao.
In addition to agate having more than two colors it also had fine textue.Due to this property the craftsmen used the layers of the colors in there natural form to make the agate snuff bottle. All they could do the agate material was to carve it into different distinct shapes that were attractive to people. The bottle were usually made to fit the palm of the hand hence they were small in size.
The most preferred shapes were those of animals.0ther objects were made to resemble the shape of a flower. Examples of the animals that they could carve were mostly the birds and the animals were for example he lion hence the lion agate snuff bottle. Others could take the shape of a fish and many more shapes of different types of animals depending on what they represented in the society. There some of these bottle that were painted from inside while others were painted from the outside only.
These bottles are highly valued, that is why they used to identify the social status of the individual carrying it. They existed only in the times of Qing dynasty and after. There value was very high because of the scarcity of agate.
Finding this material was very difficult because there natural sources were very few. Hence, agate snuff bottles were very few in number during the time of the Qing empire.
Another factor that led to the bottle to be highly valued was because of its natural colors that made to look very beautiful to the eyes. Those that were made from the brown agate material were considered of a certain type of class. The tawny brown type of agate was considered by the craftsmen to be the most suitable material that could be used for carving.
The agate snuff bottle was given different types of names. Some took the name of the most prominent color on the surface hence we do have the red, white, green, yellow and black colored type. Example of the names that were given to different models of these object include nattural curved agate, Chinese agate plum snuff bottle, vintage pebble form shadow agate snuff bottle and many more.
As the reign of the Qing dynasty was coming to the end also the use of these bottles diminished. The people no longer valued them due to the reduced usage of snuff and also reduced valued attached to them. Even though these bottles are not highly used nowadays there are many collectors who are so concerned in collection of these bottles and storing them for future generations or selling them to the interested parties. There are museums that have been set up in various parts of china to help in conservation of this art.