This wonderful item is an Indian spice box, the traditional container for the essential spices required for cooking authentic curry; and, like the dish itself, there are many imitators, but few are truly genuine. Many such boxes claiming to be antique are actually cheap, modern reproductions. Thankfully, careful observation will reveal clues of authenticity: the hand-carved decoration should be well worn — the edges and corners will be soft and rounded, worn smooth by centuries of human hands; the patination should be dark, even black at the edges; and also the hardware that holds the lid to body should be appropriately primitive and hand-forged (not just a repurposed nail).
I’ve seen a lot of these boxes — both genuine antiques and reproductions — and this is one of the finest and oldest I’ve had the pleasure of handling. The construction is stout and strong, and the elegant decoration extremely worn. In fact, there is even an old repair at one corner of the lid where an artisan has expertly matched the old border trim. When you hold this box, you can feel the many, many years it has in it. This spice box is at least c. 1800, very likely much older.
The wood is a jungle hardwood, likely rosewood. The lid turns smoothly and evenly, and the base is heavy enough to support the lid when opened (because they are often made of much lighter wood, most reproductions will flop-over and spill when fully opened — you should be very suspicious of any box that isn’t shown with it’s lid open and the box still upright!); it was crucial that the box stayed upright when opened, so none of the valuable spices would be spilled!
This authentic Indian spice box makes an intriguing item of decor and an excellent jewelry box or container for sacred treasures!