Up to Snuff

Courtesy of David Chan, Jeffrey Low and Denis Low

SMALL WONDERS: A trio of Chinese snuff bottles

There's no genie in a Chinese snuff bottle, but it's easy to see why these exquisite little phials — the height of fashion in 18th century Beijing — cast a spell on collectors today. Handcrafted from every material known to the Qing dynasty (1644-1911), including copper, glass, porcelain, jade, ivory and amber, each one is a miniature masterpiece of the applied arts. Rich in symbolism — achieved through decorative techniques such as enameling, stippling and relief carving — they served as courtly gifts and good-luck charms. And their social significance wasn't to be sneezed at.

Denis S.K. Low, a retired realtor and...

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