What is a snuffbox?

What is a cigarette snuffbox?

A tobaccer (French: tabatière) is a box, usually folding, for tobacco or cigarettes. Today it is used considerably less than in the past. The tabatière, which is used to store tobacco, is most often round, while that for cigarettes is rectangular. It is made of ivory, wood, amber and metal. Sometimes snuffboxes are inlaid with precious and semi-precious stones. Tobacco tobacconists may have several partitions for different types, while those for cigarettes have an elastic band or other device to keep the cigarettes from being dislodged and crushed.

Cigarette snuffboxes are usually thin and rectangular, often with rounded edges and sides to make them a comfortable design to carry in the pocket. The two halves of the snuffbox are connected by hinges and when opened reveal two compartments in which a small number of cigarettes are stored - antique snuffboxes usually contain around 8 to 10 cigarettes, as cigarettes in the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries were shorter and wider than cigarettes produced today. Often the snuffboxes have an elastic band on the inside that holds the cigarettes. More luxurious snuffboxes had metal holders attached by springs to the two lids of the snuffbox.

History of the snuffbox

Cigarette tobacco were commonly used from the nineteenth century to the mid-twentieth century. They were largely to protect cigarettes from breakage or damage, being a more effective and secure way to protect cigarettes than paper cigarette packs. Sturdy metal snuffboxes were often decorated with enamel or engravings. At the time, smoking was perceived to be a manly habit and the snuffboxes were designed with men in mind. As in most cases on the snuffboxes are were engraved with female erotic images.

As with most antique accessories, snuffboxes were often made of gold or silver intended for use by the higher echelons of society. Many antique snuffboxes made of gold or silver are still found today.

Most gold cigarette snuffboxes were engraved, while snuffboxes made of silver were inlaid with enamel. This was probably because gold was considered too valuable to cover with any other material, and was aesthetic enough without additional decoration. Cigarette boxes made of gold were often characterized by engraved images, as they were expensive items, often given as gifts, and just as with nineteenth-century men's accessories, were engraved with the monograms and initials of their owners.

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