Judging by its classicizing sarcophagus shape and the nature of its hinge, this miniature agate snuff box in silver mounts was probably carved in Italy as a souvenir of the Grand Tour, ca. 1800-1820s. The term “agate” is a catch-all for banded chalcedony. Typically, the banding on agates is concentric because the material is filling a cavity. Sometimes, as in our example, the cavity is wholly filled and the stone can be cut and polished to a smooth surface. (The dark wispy areas of organic textures may indicate that areas of limestone in the original matrix dissolved and were quickly replaced by the creamy brown chalcedony.) Artisans of the Roman Empire, drawing on the techniques and motifs of all the ancient Mediterranean cultures produced large and small masterworks in hollow carving, intaglio, cameo, pietra-dura and mosaic. When the Western Roman Empire fell in 410 A.D., the Eastern Roman Empire, or Byzantium, adopted and refined the stone carvers’ arts, which were reintroduced to Europe by the Venetians and given new purpose in the 18th and 19th centuries. That was at a time when scholars, collectors and dilettantes re-awoke to the beauties of the classical ancient world. Our small, thin-walled “coffin” was made to hold snuff, a powdered form of smokeless tobacco taken in “pinches” through the nose. In addition to its immediate nicotine high and exotic perfume, snuff provided an opportunity for luxury accoutrements & elegant gestures that made it vastly popular among the European elites of the time. Condition: Stone, excellent. Silver mounts & hinge, some loosening. Dimensions: 2" x 1.5" x 1.25"