Crystal; well hollowed, with a flat lip and concave foot surrounded by a rounded footrim intersected by the fluting of the narrow sides and base; carved on the two main sides with the obverse and reverse of a Mexican eight-reale coin bearing the head of Charles III of Spain encircled by the legend CAROLUSIIIDEIGRATIA1781 , the reverse with the Spanish coat of arms and the continued legend HISPANET INDREM8RFF 17811830 Height: 5.2 cm Mouth/lip: 0.53/1.70 cm Stopper: jadeite; silver collar
Condition: Natural flaw in the crystal running through neck; a small line or tiny chip in one side of the bottle towards the base, one even smaller on the other side, possibly both natural flaws; nibbles around inner lip; otherwise, workshop condition
Provenance: Gerd Lester (1986)
Published: Treasury 2, no. 238
The coin most popularly copied onto snuff bottles was the Spanish eight-reale piece minted in Mexico City, the mint indicated by the letter 'M' with a small letter 'o' above it as an abbreviation for Mexico. Of the known early coin bottles, almost all of them reproduce coins minted in Mexico during the reigns of Charles III (1760-1788) or his son, Charles IV (1788-1808). From both the background of the currency and the dates on the bottles copying it, we can be fairly certain that the production of these coin bottles began during the last fifteen years of the nineteenth century and that their popularity peaked around the turn of the century.
The earliest possible date for this example, for obvious reasons, is 1781, but it is highly unlikely that a coin fresh from the mint would find its way into a Chinese lapidary workshop in China in the same year.
For further information on the coins copied and the group in general, see Moss, Graham, and Tsang 1993, p. 633, a glass overlay bottle, and Moss 1971, pp. 75 -- 78, and for another example in crystal of similar form and copying either the same coin, or one of the same year, Stevens 1976, no. 459. In the same publication, no. 467 is a crystal bottle with a copy of a Maria Theresa thaler of 1765, a coin that was less frequently copied onto snuff bottles. Another Maria Theresa thaler, in aragonite, is illustrated by Lawrence 1996, no. 31. A crystal example of the Charles III coin without the lobed body is illustrated in Jutheau 1980, p. 111, no. 7, as is another, but copying a Charles IV coin of 1789 is Sin, Hui, and Kwong 1996, no. 215, and there is an example in orange quartz or quartzite, which is an alternative but rarer variant to the crystal examples, in Geng and Zhao 1992, no. 328.
For a reproduction of a sample coin dated 1790 and for a reference to further information on these coin bottles, see no. 336.
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