Labradorite is said to have been first discovered by Moravian missionaries in Canada in 1770, on the Labrador peninsula, thus acquiring its name. Later finds were made in different places including Russia, Norway and Australia. Given the date of the present box only some ten years later, it must have been considered a most rare and precious stone. This would explain its use here in Saxony where the difficult financial situation strongly encouraged the use of local rather than imported hardstones in the production of snuff boxes. Labradorite is also extremely fragile and difficult to work, making the present example which is very clearly designed to show off the brilliant iridescence of the stone in contrast with the opalescent simulated pearls, appear deceptively simple.
A snuff box in the celebrated Hawkins Collection (22 March 1904, lot 394) is described as 'an oblong octagonal gold snuff box, by NEUBER, the whole of the exterior inlaid with many variously shaped panels of lumachelle and labradite [sic]; the exposed gold mounts on the exterior chased with classical mouldings'. A cut-cornered rectangular unsigned box by Neuber, the lid applied with a cameo on a ground of small labradorite lozenges crossed with a trellis of simulated pearls within typical turquoise forget-me-not and carnelian borders appeared at auction, Christie's New York, 20 October 1999, lot 7. These two examples would confirm that Neuber was both aware of the existence of labradorite and had used the rare stone for a snuff box on at least two occasions.
An oval box by J.C. Kayser, St Petersburg, 1792, in the Hermitage is panelled with labradorite within raised gold cagework mounts, and a circular box in the same collection, by Scharff, and attributed to the 1780s, incorporates labradorite with diamond-encrusted mounts
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