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Openwork silver frame lined with gold and set transparent with diamonds; narrow band edged with pearls, surmounted by four crosses-pattée, the front cross set with a pale yellow brilliant, and four sprays representing the national emblems of the Un

Dazzling pieces of jewellery, insignia and other works of art

Fabrique Royale [Berlin]

Table snuff box

RCIN 9044

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The practice of taking snuff became fashionable across Europe towards the end of the seventeenth century, and from about 1680 jewellers began to make ever more luxurious snuffboxes.  This spectacular bloodstone box is encrusted with nearly three thousand diamonds backed with delicately coloured foils in shades of pink and yellow. It is one of the finest of the series of boxes made in the Fabrique Royale in Berlin and associated with Frederick II ('the Great') of Prussia (1712-86). Frederick was a passionate snuff-taker and is said to have had a collection of over three hundred boxes; one box is even said to have saved his life by deflecting a bullet during battle.

This box passed to the Romanovs, the ruling family of Russia, and was subsequently confiscated by the Soviet authorities in 1917.  It was sold several times in England before being purchased by Queen Mary (1867-1953) in 1932.