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Rare, Fine Silver Filigree Vinaigrette Locket
China
18th century

length: 3.4cm, width: 2.5cm, thickness: 1.2cm, weight: 32g

This remarkable, small vinaigrette or rectangular form is from China (or possibly of Chinese workmanship from Southeast Asia). It is covered on all sides
(including the base) with the finest silver filigree. It is heavy for its size, on account of its double walls and the compartment hidden in the interior in which was
stored absorbent material soaked in a fragrant oil such as clove or lavender oil.

The compartment  inside is covered with a small hinged lid that is also composed of silver filigree.

The vinaigrette has a hinged lid. It also has an eyelet on one side which would have allowed it to be worn suspended on a chain as a pendant - eighteenth
century European ladies would have worn the item and when their carriage drove over an exposed drain they could have reached for their vinaigrette to help
them recover from the smell.

Most probably the vinaigrette  was entirely gilded (gold-plated) but now only the interior retains the original gilding, which remains bright and vibrant.

Another Chinese export silver example (but with solid chased sides rather than with filigree) is illustrated in The Oriental Gallery (1994, no. 82).

This vinaigrette is in excellent condition. It is a fine and rare example.

References:
The Oriental Art Gallery, 'Oriental Jewellery and Works of Art', 1994.

Provenance: UK art market

Inventory no.: 3745

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See more Chinese decorative arts here, and more East-West trade items here.
The base
The interior showing the original absorbent cotton-like material.