A turquoise matrix snuff bottle 1730-1880
Lot 105
A turquoise matrix snuff bottle 1730-1880
Sold for HK$ 212,500 (US$ 27,403) inc. premium
Auction Details
A turquoise matrix snuff bottle 1730-1880 A turquoise matrix snuff bottle 1730-1880 A turquoise matrix snuff bottle 1730-1880 A turquoise matrix snuff bottle 1730-1880 A turquoise matrix snuff bottle 1730-1880
Lot Details
A turquoise matrix snuff bottle
Sold with accompanying watercolour by Peter Suart
4.6cm high.


  • Treasury 3, no.418


    A turquoise matrix snuff bottle

    Turquoise matrix; reasonably well hollowed and of natural pebble form
    Height: 4.6 cm
    Mouth: 0.6 cm
    Stopper: coral, carved as a twig; gilt-silver collar
    Illustration: watercolour by Peter Suart

    Condition: workshop condition

    Robert Hall (1987)

    Hall 1987, no. 83
    Kleiner, Yang, and Shangraw 1994, no. 244
    Treasury 3, no. 418

    Robert Hall, London, October 1987
    Hong Kong Museum of Art, March–June 1994
    National Museum, Singapore, November 1994–February 1995

    Turquoise is a crypto-crystalline aggregate with crystals so fine that the stone is considered practically amorphous. Although the composition varies, it is a hydrous copper aluminium phosphate with some iron. Its hardness on the Mohs scale is slightly less than 6, allowing it to be scratched with firm pressure and a good steel point, although in the snuff-bottle world turquoise is unlike any other material and is never convincingly imitated by anything else, so a test is never necessary. The only fake turquoise we have seen is a rather unconvincingly stained soapstone used late in the Qing and into the twentieth century; it lacks the distinctive black veining of turquoise matrix, nearly always found to some extent in the snuff-bottle world, although see Treasury 2, nos. 423 and 424 for material remarkably free of darker veining, and JICSBS, September 1977, p. 17, nos. 23–27 for bottles made in the 1950s and 1960s which are of such flawless material that they have been considered fakes. The veined matrix material in which turquoise is found, incidentally, is limonite (see Sale 2, lot 15). The stone occurs mainly in veins but can be found in botryoidal form, i.e., pebble-form resembling a cluster of grapes. It is found in a number of places around the world, including Persia, the Sinai Peninsula and Russia. It appears to have been mined in Tibet, where it is one of the most valued stones in the culture, although because of its value the exact whereabouts of the mines has long been shrouded in mystery. Marco Polo spoke of the existence of turquoise in what he called Caindu, which has been identified as modern-day Sichuan province, then largely inhabited by Tibetan tribes, so it is possible that the Tibetans simply used the stone there and gave the impression it was mined locally. It was mined in China, in Zhushan County, Yunxi County, and Yun County in Hubei province, but this is documented only for the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. In Xinjiang, old exhausted turquoise mines still exist in Hami, which was the first Turkic oasis to ask to be a protectorate of the Qing (in 1697). Until the war with the Zunghars, trade between Hami and Beijing flourished, and after the extermination of the Zunghars in 1759, Hami was one of the areas of the vanquished empire in which the Qing were able to have a significant military and civilian presence (which was not the case in the nephrite-producing areas about 1800 km further west) .Whether turquoise was part of the tribute that would have resumed is unknown. In any case, imports by sea must have been significant.

    Most turquoise snuff bottles are of a distinctly green colour that is attributable to the absorption of oils from the hand with much use, and certainly turquoise is susceptible to this, but it is also true that some turquoise is bluer than others, Persian material, notably, and some from North America. The Tibetan and Chinese material was found originally both as green and blue, and much of what was used in the snuff-bottle world would have started life as green material. To the Qing Chinese, the stone was known as lüsongshi ('green pine stone'), whether green or blue, suggesting that green was the more common colour, but according to the General Gazetteer of Hubei, pale blue was held to be the most valuable colour. Another indication that the two colours were equally used, and to some extent equally valued, is found in the number of porcelain copies of the material where some copy blue and some green material. This is good evidence, since enamels on porcelain do not discolour through handling, as the real material would.

    For others of the small and always impressive group of early natural pebble-form turquoise bottles, see Sydney L. Moss Ltd 1965, no. 96; Curtis 1982, no. 36; Moss 1977, p. 11, no. 7; Sotheby's, New York, 6 April 1990, lot 179, and Sotheby's, New York, 22 September 1995, lot 197.


    綠松石巖;掏膛適當, 天然卵石鳽
    高﹕ 4.6 厘米
    口經: 0.6 厘米
    蓋: 珊瑚,雕折枝,鎏金銀座


    羅伯特.霍爾 (1987)

    Hall 1987, 編號83
    Kleiner, Yang, and Shangraw 1994, 編號244
    Treasury 3, 編號418

    羅伯特.霍爾, 倫敦,1987年10月
    National Museum, Singapore, November 1994–February 1995

    綠松石是一組復雜的礦物組,化學式有六種。它存在於沈積巖的含鐵鐵帽中,莫氏硬度是5~6。在鼻煙壺界,假冒的綠松石很容易識別,晚清或出現了沁染的滑石,但它缺乏綠松石巖的裂痕。沒有那種脈紋的綠松石煙壺有是有,如Treasury 2, 編號 423 及 424 與 《國際中國鼻煙壺協會的學術期刊》, 1977年9月號, 頁 17, 編號 23–27,可是並不多。綠松石常常與褐鐵礦伴生 (褐鐵礦見 第二場拍賣會,拍賣品號 15)。

    在中國採礦的地方有湖北隕縣、隕西縣、竹山等,但這都是清末民國初創辦的。新疆哈密市有天湖綠松石礦,那兒有幾個採空的老硐遺跡。哈密康熙36年3 月(1697)成為清帝國的受保護領地﹕

    哈密 額貝杜拉達爾 漢白克疏言、臣遣子郭帕白克擒噶爾丹子塞卜騰巴爾珠 爾、必為四部。厄魯特所仇。其中左翼之怨尤深。臣哈密 微弱、 所尤懼者、策妄阿喇布坦也。請敕理藩院、移文青海諸台吉、 及策妄阿喇布坦諭以哈密 既已歸誠、勿得侵擾。應如所請。 從之。(《清實錄》)

    之後,哈密與北京的"進貢"關係就比較正規化了,在乾隆朝,准噶爾國被殲滅之前,哈密、蕭州都是京師與新疆的貿易中心,哈密市的貿易非常興盛。准噶爾國滅亡後,哈密屬於清朝非軍事行政比較有權威的地區,綠松石也許在其進貢額之內。可是無論哈密的綠松石進貢 多不多,由海口來的輸入質料也一定不少。

    其他例子,見 Sydney L. Moss Ltd 1965, 編號96; Curtis 1982, 編號36; Moss 1977, 頁 11, 編號7; 紐約蘇富比,1990年4月6日, 拍賣品號 179, 及 紐約蘇富比,1995年9月22日, 拍賣品號 197.

  1. Vincent Wu
    Auction Administration - Chinese Paintings
    Suite 2001, One Pacific Place
    Hong Kong
    Work + 852 3607 0016
  2. Meilin Wang
    Specialist - Chinese Paintings
    Suite 2001, One Pacific Place
    Hong Kong
    Work +852 2918 4321
    FaxFax: +852 2918 4320
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