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Antique English Tortoise Shell & Sterling Oval Jewelry Box

Antique English Tortoise Shell & Sterling Oval Jewelry Box

$325.00

Found at market in London, this magnificent sterling silver box was skillfully hand-crafted with a lid of translucent tortoise shell ornamented with intricate sterling silver piqué work. The decorative inlaid silver on the box's hinged lid depicts a scrolling floral garland surrounding a suspended basket filled with flowers.

The box stands confidently on four decoratively detailed feet and the interior is lined with the original tan silken fabric. Produced by the skilled artisans of the long-shuttered London silversmiths Stewart & Fanshaw, the fully hallmarked box dates from 1913.

With the lush elegance of its era, we are confident this exceptional jewelry or trinket box will share its refined luxury and safe-keep your most favored pieces of jewelry in lovely antique style.


Strictly one-of-a-kind and subject to prior sale. In very good antique condition with wear to the fabric lining as seen in the alternate images. 1.75" x 3.75".

Learn More About Tortoise Shell

Tortoise shell, used as an ornamental material for art objects, jewelry and personal items such as combs and glasses frames, originates with the use of actual turtle and tortoise shells. The lovely mottled design of tortoise shell primarily reflects the patterns on the Hawksbill sea turtle, but several different types of turtle’s shells have been used throughout history.

The Egyptians and Romans used the material for decorative embellishments on furniture and other décor. One of the first uses we know of tortoise shells in Europe was in Greece where the shells of turtles were cleaned and shaped to become the bodies of stringed instruments.  Though humans have used tortoise shell for thousands of years, the material reached the height of its popularity during the 18th, 19th, and early 20th centuries.

The French artisan, André-Charles Boulle reinforced the status of tortoiseshell as an exclusive item reserved for the wealthy, when he produced a set of cabinets for French King Louis XIV. Richly decorated with tortoise shell designs, the cabinets were seen as the ultimate in taste and luxury. 

Tortoise shell was used in glasses frames as early as the thirteenth century. At the time, most glasses frames were made from wood or wire and tortoise shell was an elegant alternative that only the upper classes could afford. By the end of the 19th century, however, substitutes to tortoise shell were in greater use than the real thing — not because of concern over the turtles, but because it was cheaper to produce and could be sold more widely. By the time the most commonly used turtles were put on the endangered species list in the 1970s, actual turtle shells were seldom used.

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