Monday, March 19, 2012


An Etui (pronounced a-twee) is a pocket-sized ornamental case dating from the 18th to 19th century. These cases were made of different materials, such as silver, gold, enamel, gilt metal and tortoiseshell.

See image 1 of an 18th century Meissen style porcelain etui (image courtesy of Times Past Antiques,,gilt-banded-18th,

Image 1

Etuis had fitted interiors containing various small useful items, such as writing sets, scent bottles, knife, fork and spoon sets, and sewing accessories. Others contained just about everything.

See image 2 that shows a mid 18th century Georgian Etui Necessaire. The front and back of the tapering case is decorated with various musical instruments and foliage, on a stippled background. The interior is fitted with 11 implements, including fork, two knives, measure ruler, scissors, ivory leaves, snuff spoon, tweezers, file, and a needle threader. (Image courtesy of Louis Wine Antiques, Toronto, Canada

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See this example (image 3). It is a circa 1840 bloodletting etui with four tortoiseshell covered lancets. The instruments are known as thumb lancets due to the way in which they were held and pushed into a blood vessel! (Image courtesy of Alex Peck Medical Antiques,

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Sunday, February 19, 2012


Tea was introduced in England from China in the mid 17th century. Because tea was regarded as a precious commodity, special boxes called caddies were used to store the tea leaves. Tea caddies were made from various materials, including tortoiseshell, porcelain, carved and inlaid woods, and metals ranging from painted tin to engraved silver.

The two images below show a circa 1790 blonde tortoiseshell tea caddy with ivory and pewter stringing. It has two interior lids (images courtesy of http://www.bazaar

And below are two images of a circa 1840 rosewood sarcophagus form tea caddy on lion paw feet with two interior lids and center mixing bowl (images courtesy of http://www.bazaar

DID YOU KNOW THAT the British crown had imposed such high taxes on the importation of tea, that by the mid 18th century the duty on tea had reached 119 percent? Such heavy taxation brought a new found income for the government but soon, it also helped create a new booming industry: tea smuggling! (source:

Thursday, January 19, 2012

Tunbridge Ware

Tunbridge Ware refers to a process of inlaid wood decoration developed and made popular in the town of Tunbridge Wells in Kent, England. Although the process was developed earlier, Tunbridge Ware was most popular in the 19th century Victorian period.

The most famous makers of Tunbridge Ware were family owned businesses: Wise Family; Burrows Family; Fenner; Nye; Barton; Hollamby; Boyce, Brown & Kemp; and Tunbridge Wells Manufacturing Company.

The most popular item to be produced in this fashion was the box; e.g., tea, snuff, stamps, gloves, handkerchiefs, matches, among others. Many of the geometric patterned boxes are from the earlier part of the century while floral patterns were adapted later on.
(Sources: and

The following images are courtesy of Armherst Antiques.

Image 1 shows a dressing case with a view of Windsor Castle by George Wise, circa 1840

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Image 2 shows a writing slope/lap desk with a view of Battle Abbey Gatehouse by Henry Hollamby, circa 1870.

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DID YOU KNOW that the then young Princess (later Queen) Victoria was a frequent visitor to the town of Tunbridge Wells and used to buy articles of Tunbridge ware as gifts for her family? As gratitude to her, the town's people presented her with a specially made example: a kingwood work table (see image 3 below, courtesy of the Tunbridge Wells Museum & Art Gallery (

According to the Museum, the principal manufacturers of the time had to draw lots for the privilege of making the table.

Image 3