The British Museum's collections, £16.99
Height: 8.000 cm
Width: 4.000 cm
Depth: 2.500 cm
On loan from the Natural History Museum SL 60924
Enlightenment: Natural world
Collected by Sir Hans Sloane
Eighteenth-century collectors like Sir Hans Sloane (1660-1753) amassed huge numbers of minerals in their natural state. In general they were interested in these specimens as evidence concerning the earth and its history. But they also gathered together fine examples of objects carved from minerals, such as this snuff box made of agate.
Sloane collected a large number of carved objects, including over 200 handles, as well as spoons, bowls, archers' rings and tiny carved animals. Indeed Sloane's collection become famous among his fellow collectors because of these beautiful items. Sloane also kept records of what he paid for different pieces - the snuff box, for example, cost about £10.
Many of the carved objects in Sloane's collection were made from agate, a type of quartz. Others were made of jade, cornelian, lapis lazuli, amethyst and nephrite - rocks and minerals that came from all over the world, including China and Mexico.
A. MacGregor (ed.), Sir Hans Sloane, collector, sc (London, The British Museum Press, 1994)