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Chinese Snuff Bottle Discussion Forum 中國鼻煙壺討論論壇
July 16, 2018, 03:20:04 pm
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An Iron Snuff Bottle

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Author Topic: An Iron Snuff Bottle  (Read 320 times)
marcos
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« on: March 30, 2016, 11:50:04 am »

Dear All,

I would like to share an iron snuff bottle with you.

The bottle measuring 5.7 cm with and a gold inlay Fu character. There are other faded marks which I cannot distinguish well.

The bottle is well hollowed yet weighs 145 grams.








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Joey
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« Reply #1 on: March 30, 2016, 03:09:13 pm »

WOW! Ugly but old. Grin Roll Eyes

    Of course it's heavy! It's IRON. Seriously, a real utilitarian example. I have had examples in Pewter, and in Silver, and in Steel, but never had one in Iron.
Best,
Joey
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Joey Silver, collecting snuff bottles since Feb.1970

marcos
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« Reply #2 on: March 30, 2016, 03:45:20 pm »

Very ugly indeed.

I try to imagine what the former owner looked like.

I looked for similar examples but couldn´t find any. Has anyone got any clues?

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George
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« Reply #3 on: March 30, 2016, 04:16:17 pm »

How unusual is this !!  Thank you for sharing it Marcos !

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Wattana
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« Reply #4 on: March 30, 2016, 09:40:00 pm »

Hi Marcos,

An interesting bottle! I had always understood there to be certain materials which were not suitable for carrying snuff, as they impaired the subtle flavour of the precious powder. Iron is definitely one of them, unless the bottle was lined with another material. Have you tried looking inside?

Of course, it may not originally have been intended for snuff, but something else.

Tom
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Tom
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George
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« Reply #5 on: March 31, 2016, 01:41:29 am »

It looks to be put together with seven (?) pieces..  Wonder how it was put together, and just how finished each piece was before piecing together.

The seam looks of the same gold that the Fu character is made of.
« Last Edit: March 31, 2016, 01:52:12 am by George » Report Spam   Logged

Fiveroosters
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« Reply #6 on: March 31, 2016, 06:11:16 am »

Dear Joey,
to be precise (I like you know to be precise Grin) the correct name for the material of this bottle is steel. I don’t know what did you mean by saying that you had an example made of steel. I am not expert in metallurgy, but iron, although very common in nature, is not commercially available. The pure iron is quite soft for being a metal. The one that we see commonly, like for example that of this bottle, contain a small quantity of carbon and for that it becomes steel. Prone to rust. By adding other metals like Chrome for example, it is rust free and becomes stainless steel.
I don’t know if it is the same in English, but here in Italy people commonly call “iron” the steel and call “steel” the stainless steel. But the correct names are the latest  ones. Did you perhaps had a stainless steel bottle?
Dear Marcos, a really interesting bottle. It will be interesting to look at its inside as suggested by Tom. I use a small LED for that.
Kind regards
Giovanni
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Wattana
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« Reply #7 on: March 31, 2016, 08:50:51 am »

Dear Giovanni,
     Technically you are correct, of course. But the English language is often not precise, and here is a good example.  We talk of 'iron railings'; we hit someone over the head with an 'iron bar'; and we refer to the Chinese incised decorative work on snuff bottles as being done with an 'iron brush'.
     Steel in the minds of most English speakers implies a harder metal - one that can scratch jade and quartz.
Regards,
Tom
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Tom
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« Reply #8 on: March 31, 2016, 08:55:43 am »

Like Iron Man .... Grin Grin Grin

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五花馬,千金裘。呼兒將出換美酒,與爾同銷萬古愁。

http://www.chinese-snuff-bottle.com

marcos
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« Reply #9 on: March 31, 2016, 10:00:17 am »

Hi Giovanni,

I was puzzled by the lack of apparent rust so your observation about stainless steel makes a lot of sense.

I know that some steel is magnetic, others not. I tested this bottle and it is magnetic, so that may give us a clue about age.

I shed a light inside and couldn´t see any lining. I retrieved a small quantity of some fine powder from inside with a cotton bud. I am not sure it is snuff because it didn´t have any smell.
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« Reply #10 on: March 31, 2016, 11:10:00 am »

Dear Tom,
it is the same here in Italy too. People say that the hammer is iron, and forks and knoves are steel, but that is not correct. In fact, for example, the advertising of the cars say that the body is made of steel.
Dear Marcos, your bottle is not stainless steel. Most old "iron" are forged and has a great resistance to corrosion. Look at old guns for example, or old windows grate. If the bottle is handled, it is almost impossible to have rust on it. Anyway, the fact of being steel or stainless steel is not a determining factor for age. The few swords found in the pits of the Terracotta Army looks like brand new, because they knew the technology of adding Chrome, two thousand years ago, while here in Europe we did start to do that at the beginning of 20th century!!
Giovanni
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« Reply #11 on: March 31, 2016, 02:47:12 pm »

Dear Giovanni,
   
     The bottle was steel and took a polish. It was also inlaid and partially gilded and had niello decoration.
But now I'm confused. I have cast iron railings and  forged iron railings at my Irish home.  Are they both steel, in reality?
Best,
Joey

Dear Joey,
to be precise (I like you know to be precise Grin) the correct name for the material of this bottle is steel. I don’t know what did you mean by saying that you had an example made of steel. I am not expert in metallurgy, but iron, although very common in nature, is not commercially available. The pure iron is quite soft for being a metal. The one that we see commonly, like for example that of this bottle, contain a small quantity of carbon and for that it becomes steel. Prone to rust. By adding other metals like Chrome for example, it is rust free and becomes stainless steel.
I don’t know if it is the same in English, but here in Italy people commonly call “iron” the steel and call “steel” the stainless steel. But the correct names are the latest  ones. Did you perhaps had a stainless steel bottle?
Dear Marcos, a really interesting bottle. It will be interesting to look at its inside as suggested by Tom. I use a small LED for that.
Kind regards
Giovanni

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Joey Silver, collecting snuff bottles since Feb.1970

marcos
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« Reply #12 on: March 31, 2016, 04:13:46 pm »

Hi Giovanni,

Thanks for clarifying this matter.

It amazes me that it took so long for the steel technology to reach the West, whereas in the Middle East and India sword makers were already quenching their swords in donkeys urine and slave bodies to produce Damascus steel.
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« Reply #13 on: April 24, 2016, 07:23:51 pm »


All,

Just a little to add to this subject.  I was researching various sources of copper and copper metallurgy, and ran across this tidbit on cast iron use in China.

Cast iron in the east: 513 BC

Thus far in the story iron has been heated and hammered, but never melted. Its melting point (1528°C) is too high for primitive furnaces, which can reach about 1300°C and are adequate for copper (melting at 1083°C). This limitation was overcome when the Chinese develop a furnace hot enough to melt iron, enabling them to produce the world's first cast iron - an event traditionally dated in the Chinese histories to 513 BC.

In this the Chinese were a thousand and more years ahead of the western world. The first iron foundry in England, for example, dates only from AD 1161. By that time the Chinese have already pioneered the structural use of cast iron, using it sometimes for the pillars of full-size pagodas.

[Source: http://www.historyworld.net/wrldhis/PlainTextHistories.asp?ParagraphID=bba]

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George
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« Reply #14 on: July 08, 2016, 06:19:53 pm »

I thought about starting a new topic, but because I have seen so few cast bottles of any kind of metal, thought would keep this interesting topic of Marcos alive. Like Marcos bottle, a bit rough but appears old !

Plated over a silver colored cast metal that is not attracted my a magnet. Perhaps a gilt over what ever the cast metal is.. Under magnification the gilt appears gold in color, yet at a distance it looks much more like copper/brass over the cast metal.  The walls are the same thickness throughout as seen at the mouth. Very heavy, and my small digital scales will not go beyond about three ounces.

Although not nearly the quality, it seems a bit similar to this Bonham's gilded, cast pewter bottle..
https://www.bonhams.com/auctions/23833/lot/7061/


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« Last Edit: July 08, 2016, 08:31:03 pm by George » Report Spam   Logged

Joey
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« Reply #15 on: July 08, 2016, 09:58:32 pm »

Dear George,

      The Bonhams example is almost identical to #75 in my 1987 catalogue. Even the stopper looks identical.
Your bottle looks very interesting, but I can't place the period of its manufacture.
Best,
Shabbat Shalom,
Joey
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Joey Silver, collecting snuff bottles since Feb.1970

George
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« Reply #16 on: July 09, 2016, 01:21:19 am »

Yes, they certainly do look alike !

I hesitated to clean this for a better look, but now I can see it is copper gilding over pewter. At least I believe it pewter, as it is pretty soft which could account for it to be able and chip at the neck rim. But like you Joey, I am unsure of age..


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« Last Edit: July 09, 2016, 01:38:22 am by George » Report Spam   Logged

Joey
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« Reply #17 on: July 09, 2016, 06:18:19 am »

Dear George,

     The more I look at it, the more it reminds me of bottles made between 1905 and 1945, to hide gold bullion. Jin Hing Ltd., Bob Lee's family company in LA, was originally based in Shanghai. They would do a mold of a Cinnabar bottle, cast it in 22K gold, or 24K gold, and cover with one or 2 coats of cinnabar lacquer. The owners would have a 'good luck' display of cinnabar (red is a lucky colour in east Asian culture), somewhere that the pieces would not be touched (like a house shrine), and they'd hide the family wealth in plain sight.
But why do it to pewter?
Shabbat Shalom,
Joey
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« Reply #18 on: July 09, 2016, 07:40:29 am »

Dear Joey,

I think you hit the nail on the head there by mentioning the cast gold bottles posing as cinnabar lacquer.
 
Before even scrolling down to your post, my immediate thought when I saw George's photos was how similar it was (overall shape, decorative design, foot with reign stamp) to certain cinnabar lacquer bottles. Could this bottle be an early experiment of making a cast copy from a cinnabar lacquer bottle in metal, ahead of trying it in the more precious metals such as gold?

Best,
Tom
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« Reply #19 on: July 09, 2016, 02:14:39 pm »

Joey,
The cast gold bottles were on my mind when I saw this, although I did not think it solid gold.  But because the metal was cast in the form of very common resin bottles, it caught my eye.

Why the Pewter ?  No idea except because it is so soft, maybe it is easier to work with during the casting process ?

Tom,
Maybe you are on track Tom with the idea of experimenting. 
« Last Edit: July 09, 2016, 02:23:14 pm by George » Report Spam   Logged

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