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Porcupine quill cigarette box
Indian porcupine quill, ebony & ivory inlay boxes. A late 19th Century porcupine quill box, of rectangular form with the sliding lid revealing a plain cedar wood interior, when closed 20 cm wide x 10cm deep x 4cm high.
Porcupine quill boxes were very much in vogue between 1850 and 1900. I have no idea of the history of these boxes, except the one in the 3rd image has been in the family for many decades – undoubtedly picked up by some distant relative on route to New Zealand.
Porcupine boxes were almost exclusively made in Ceylon (now Sri Lanka) and were produced for the European market hence boxes imitated traditional English forms such as jewellery boxes, sewing baskets and writing boxes. The boxes were finely inlaid with ivory discs and porcupine quills between bands of ebony. They were highly valued for their rich timbers and intricate craftsmanship.
There are numerous porcupine quill boxes on the market, and they vary in quality enormously. As a general rule, the more work that has gone into the box, the finer and rarer it is.
The number of ivory dots and their close proximity together are a good indication of a valuable box. The more common boxes have ivory discs one inch apart, the rarer boxes have numerous discs.