Bonbonniere, 1760-1775, enamel; gilt metal by Unidentified Artist
The art of painting on enamel flourished in England during the second half of the eighteenth century. A French jeweler, Jean Toutin, had developed a new technique for painting on enamel, in which a gold base was covered first with white enamel, then painted with a design. This craft soon spread to England, where it was adopted by jewelers and goldsmiths. Their intricately painted boxes and curios were fashionable with the wealthy, who often bought them as souvenirs from their travels. Popular items included small boxes, which were used to carry snuff or “patches” (beauty spots); bonbonnieres, which contained sweets; and etuis, which might carry a lady’s scissors, tweezers, or pencil. More functional items were also popular, including watches, candlesticks, and tea caddies.