You have 2 more free articles remaining

It didn’t just boost the statistics in terms of lots sold either, financially the sale was given a huge boost by the 18th century snuffbox pictured left which sold for no less than £700,000, a contribution not far short of half the entire £1.6m total. The box, which is composed of 154 numbered specimens of hardstones from the Saxon mines set in a gold cage mount, was made by Christian Gottlieb Stiehl, the Saxon court gemcarver. It contained a secret compartment which holds a booklet giving the key to the stone specifications, a feature unique to this maker.

In 1997 Sotheby’s sold an oval box by this maker in their Geneva rooms for SFr550,000 (£237,100). The price achieved at Christie’s this month is well in excess of that figure and of the previous auction high for a Saxon snuffbox – the £280,000 paid at Christie’s in November 2000 for an octagonal box inlaid with hardstone specimens by Stiehl’s younger Dresden counterpart, Johann Christian Neubar.