Snuff bottle

  • /
  • ate 19th century
  • Agate stone
  • Height: 6,8 cm / Width: not filled / Depth: not filled
  • Collection: Hans Leder, Inv. Nr.: 63462
  • Weltmuseum Wien
  • © KHM mit MVK und ÖTM
Snuff bottle (Khal. x«rög/xöörög). The snuff bottle consists of two major parts: the plug and the body; a metal spoon (Khal. xalbaga) is attached to the plug inside. Snuff bottles can be made of mineral and non-mineral raw materials such as wood, bone, amber, pearl-shell, gold, silver, metal, glass, porcelain; nowadays even plastic can be used. The most common are the snuff bottles made of minerals, especially the different varieties of chalcedony (Khal. mana), agate (Khal. gartām/gartaam), and onyx (Khal. čünčignorow). The most valuable snuff bottles are made of the beautiful and rare minerals of coral (Khal. šür), jade (Khal. xaš), and jadeite (Khal. pīcǖ/piicüü). A valuable snuff bottle is often only used to adorn the family altar. Exchanging snuff bottles (Khal. solix) is a very important social moment: it is a form of greeting, and the sign of respect towards the other. Snuff bottles can be used every day, but the most significant occasion is the lunar New Year. At this time, even a snuff bottle kept on the family altar all around the year takes its part in the ceremony: snuff bottles are exchanged when family members and guest greet each other. According to the customs, the exchange must happen with the sole use of the right hand, but after taking it over, it can be held in the left hand while the other hand is used to take out the tobacco with the spoon. It is impropriety and will cause bad luck if the snuff bottle is handed inside its bag, or if it is handed with its plug affixed. Before exchanging, the plug must be loosened; afterwards it is correct to at least smell it before giving it back – still with loosened plug. Snuff bottles can be held in hand several ways: the bigger and more expensive ones with both hands and in this case tobacco is often not taken out, but only smelt.
© Ágnes Birtalan
Snuff bottle
/ Mongolia / late 19th century / Weltmuseum Wien / © KHM mit MVK und ÖTM