Description & Technical information

This round silver box, most likely a pandan (i.e. a betel case), consists of a domed lid surmounted by a finial and knop. The pierced work on the lid and body is delicately decorated in the jali (latticework) style with floral and bird motifs amidst scrolling lines.
Consisting of a single chamber, it was most likely made to store paan (i.e. chopped areca nuts and aromatic spices wrapped in a leaf from the piper betel tree), which was traditionally chewed after meals. Hence, the perforations across the container would have allowed fresh air to circulate and thus keep the stored leaves fresh for long periods of time.
The base at the bottom of the box is missing, having later been replaced by a wooden concealer. Similar boxes with missing bases are known to have originally stored a mirror.[1]
In general, the dating of Indian silver pieces is problematic, for ornaments would be melted to remake ornaments in newer styles.[2] However, the main features of this box (i.e. its round surface and single compartment) suggests that it was made in the early 18th century because betel cases made from the 18th century onwards were often square or rectangular shaped;[3] moreover, separate compartments to store spices were introduced by the 19th century.[4]

[1] 1987. “Pandan Betel box”. In Mughal Silver Magnificence (xvi-xixth c.) = Magnificence de l'argenterie moghole (xvième-xixème s.). Brussels: Antalga. p.142.
[2] S.K Pathak. 2008. Indian Silver. Roli & Janssen. p.13.
[3] “Pandan Betel box”, in Mughal Silver Magnificence. p.142.
[4] “Nine Pandans and Thali Betel boxes on slaver”. In Mughal Silver Magnificence. p.142.

Date:  18th century
Period:  1750-1850, 18th century
Origin:  India
Medium: silver
Dimensions: 9 x 9 cm (3¹/₂ x 3¹/₂ inches)
Categories: Oriental and Asian Art, Silver