Gold-mounted hardstone box by Johann Christian Neuber

Dresden, Germany, around AD 1780

Inset with a later cameo by Nicolò Morelli

Neuber (1736-1808) first practised in the workshop of his father-in-law, Heinrich Taddel (died 1769) who was also the Director of the Grünes Gewölbe, the magnificent State Treasury of Saxony. Neuber took over this position in 1769, and became court jeweller in 1775. He was one of the celebrated group of goldsmiths working in Saxony who specialised in producing hardstone boxes, chatelaines and watchcases. The decoration consisted of inlaying small sections of hardstone into areas of gold; these areas could be quite large, or could simply comprise gold wires soldered onto the carcass of the object, in effect the same technique as cloisonné enamel. Neuber is now thought to have perfected the technique in Taddel's workshop. The design could comprise landscapes or floral motifs, but often formed geometric patterns that accentuated the different colours and markings of the various hardstones used. Many geometric patterned boxes were often accompanied by a written list of the stones and their location in Saxony.

At the beginning of the nineteenth century it became fashionable to set the lids of these earlier hardstone boxes with portrait miniatures and cameos. This box is inset with a cameo signed by the Roman gem engraver Nicolò Morelli (1771-1838). It shows the head of Minerva.

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Gold-mounted hardstone box by Johann Christian Neuber

  • Base of box

    Base of box


More information


C. Truman, The Gilbert collection of gold (Los Angeles County Museum of Art, 1991)

A.K. Snowman, Eighteenth century gold boxes, 2nd ed. (Woodbridge, Suffolk, 1990)


Length: 1.840 inches

Museum number

M&ME Dalton gem cat. 71 (1906,10-19,1)


Gift of Mrs Hawkins


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