"Tobacco" plants have grown in the Americas since about 6000 BC. Its leaves have been smoked since the first century BC.

 This use spread throughout the Americas and Caribbean, where tobacco was regarded often with cult status -

thought to have healing properties and sometimes reserved for chiefs and priests.


During his second voyage to the Americas (1494-96), Christopher Columbus's recording monk Friar Ramón Pané

noticed the Indians "drinking smoke" through a hollow stick, as well as sniffing a "mysterious powder" ground from tobacco.  

Columbus was given a few dried leaves and seeds, which he took back to Europe - not thinking too much of it.

But thus began the grand story of tobacco on the European Continent. 


Early European tobacco was grown and used as a medicine. Within a few years both tobacco and "snuff-taking"

had become the vogue in Portugal, Spain and France : "the pleasure of the aristocrat and the man of fashion".

By 1531, tobacco cultivation was even undertaken by the Spanish in Santo Domingo.. 

In 1565 tobacco arrived in England; and in 1600, Sir Walter Raleigh persuaded Queen Elizabeth I to try smoking.

However quickly there were medical and Papal complaints against - and taxes levied upon - tobacco. 



Despite Papal objections, 17th century French Courts (the model for Europe at the time) embraced snuff-taking.

When Charles II returned from exile in France in 1660, he brought French snuff-taking to the English Courts.

Queen Anne (1702-14) so enjoyed snuff that all her ladies of the court adopted the habit.

 Queen Charlotte, consort of George III, acquired the name Snuffy Charlotte due to her passion for snuff. 

Her son, George IV, had a storage room in each of his palaces for his snuff, changing according to the time of day.


Which brings us to ...THE BOXES...

the demand being for fine tiny boxes of precious materials - silver, ivory, gold, gems, enamels, and of course - tortoiseshell. 

* Tortoiseshell became the almost unparalleled material of choice. 

It could be easily heated and molded, carved, impressed, inlaid, polished, even encased in silver.

It could be dense and heavy, or carved thinly to give translucency when held toward the light. 

There were boxes for snuff (with hinged covers and small enough to be carried on the person to hold one day's portion),

and boxes for tobacco (slightly larger and deeper than the snuff box, usually with a pull-off rather than hinged cover). 

There were also large hinged snuff boxes to be passed around at the table - simply called "table snuff boxes".


The premier British maker of tortoiseshell boxes was John Obrisset, son of a Dieppe ivory carver,

whose techniques he adapted to the shell.  Most of Obrisset's dated boxes range from 1705-1728.


We are very pleased to offer the following four tortoiseshell boxes - spanning a period of about 100 years,

beginning with a rare box by Obrisset, signed and twice dated 1727,

honoring the ascent to George II to the English throne in that year.






John Obrisset Silver-Mounted Tortoiseshell Tobacco Box

Depicting George II on Horseback viewing his fleet below

(similar to an earlier version of Peter the Great which commemorated the foundation of the Russian Navy)

Signed OBrisset, and twice dated 1727 (the year of George II ascension to the English throne)

4.25" High




George III Portrait-Mounted Tortoiseshell Tobacco Box

England, c1790

Centering a portrait of a Commander in uniform beneath a gold-rimmed glass covering

2-7/8" Diameter x 7/8" High




French Gilt-Bronze Mounted Tortoiseshell Snuff or Tobacco Box

Late 18th Century, Gilt Bronze Mounts,

Pressed and carved with leafy tendrils on a diamond-diapered ground

3.25" Long x 2-3/8" Deep x 1-5/8" High


 Micromosaic and Gilt Mounted Tortoiseshell Tobacco Box

Late 18th / Early 19th Century, Mosaic Probably Italian, Box Probably French

The mosaic finely executed depicting a "tower"

within a carved gilt frame and gold rim

3.25" Diameter x .75" High




For more silver boxes & objects of vertu, please click below :




Please email or call if you have any questions.


Millicent Ford Creech



901-761-1163 (gallery) / 901-827-4668 (cell)



Hours : Wed.-Sat. 11-6, or by appointment

Complimentary Gift Wrapping


mfcreech@bellsouth.net  or  mfordcreech@gmail.com



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Antique Tortoiseshell Snuff Boxes and Tobacco Boxes