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From the smaller-scale snuffbox to the more elaborate lidded vessel, ceramic boxes are an elegant addition to any antique collection. These enthralling pieces reflect varying styles and subjects while also reminding us of one the most crucial inventions in history: the lid.

Following the development of the ceramic vessel, which undoubtedly revolutionized human daily life during the prehistoric era, the next big advancement was the creation of the lid to accompany vessels as a way to keep out exterior elements. Lids began as simple coverings, usually rendered in flat slabs of clay shaped roughly and fitted with a simple handle. Over time, though, these lids became more finessed, with the lid more closely contouring the ceramic base and eventually, the development of a lip to ensure the lid’s stability.

While the uses for such pieces became exponentially more varied over subsequent centuries, the basic construction remained the same. Perhaps this helps explain the popularity among collectors for these pieces: for as much as they are a piece of history, lidded ceramic boxes are still in use today, making antique versions a fitting addition for everyday elegance.

Quick Facts

  • Ceramics get their name from the ancient Greek "keramos," which means "pottery" or "potter's clay"
  • Some of the earliest surviving ceramic boxes come from the archaeological excavations at Beth Shaen in present-day Palestine. Reflecting Egyptian influence in the region during the Late Bronze Age, these vessels are constructed from slabs of clay and include a looped handle and a beveled lid
  • A recent record in ceramic box sales occurred at Christie’s Hong Kong with a bronze-glazed circular lidded box. The box, roughly 3 inches in diameter and featuring a faint scroll motif that encircles its circumference, sold for $129,520 in June 2015

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