In the Netherlands during the 16th and 17th centuries marriage caskets were presented by men to women as a symbol of their betrothal.
The casket developed out of the earlier Frisian custom of the knottedoek: a costly cloth full of coins presented as a promise of marriage. The cloth developed into a textile bag and later into a silver casket or knottekistje.
Usually rectangular or hexagonal with a curved lid and raised on ball feet, these stylish objects were delicately engraved with symbolic scenes about love or marriage, sometimes accompanied by a proverb or motto.
This small 17th century silver gilt example is offered by Wax Antiques for £9500. It is engraved to the sides with a series of Old Testament scenes, while a couple surrounded by birds and foliage is depicted to the lid.
Measuring about 3in (8.5cm) across and weighing 5.2 troy oz, the box dates to c.1680 and stamped twice to the underside with an unknown maker’s mark – possibly an anvil.
Wax Antiques is based at the London Silver Vaults in Chancery Lane.