The bat to the Chinese is a good luck symbol. Some stones have natural flaws that are not cracks. When you go to the auction rooms be sure to go on the viewing days, usually one or two days before the sale. Really fine examples look as if the raised cameo part has simply been glued onto a beautifully formed bottle. I do not know how to explain what happens, but there is something of a tactile pleasure that is only obtained from handling a good piece. If none is apparent I consider the proportions to make sure neither has been ground down to remove a chip. You need to be satisfied that the work looks well composed and well positioned and that the images formed are flowing rather than stiff and awkward. (See the photograph by using the link at the bottom of this article). What I find even more fascinating is the amazing way they deliberately, brilliantly take advantage of flaws and inclusions often present in the stones.Try to be certain that you really are enthusiastic about collecting before you buy one. Boundless possibilitiesThere is also such a vast and diverse number of collecting possibilities. My wife, thank goodness, shares my interest in these little bottles, but perhaps I should warn you, collecting anything is a bit like a bug, once caught, it is with you for ever and can be quite an obsession!Have you ever searched for pebbles or shells along the sea shore, selecting them for either colour or shape and found an appeal in handling them, so much so, that you simply could not throw them away? If so, you have the makings of a dedicated collector. These bottles have to be seen to be believed. When closely looking at a poor bottle the engraved parts can look very crude. Bottles that have had the neck repaired to remove any damage are always flat, and you can be sure no longer original. In Europe hinged boxes were used but perhaps the humidity in China caused them to prefer bottles with corks.Although I have mentioned that drilling was used, the information available about the manufacturing methods is incredible, as the drill and cutting discs were foot operated `Heath Robinson' affairs. To fully appreciate these bottles I need to tell you more about how a stone bottle was made. However I do believe after many years' experience, they acquired more control and feel than is possible with modern electronic equipment (Essential in working on Jade as certain parts of the stone can easily fracture whilst other areas are very hard). Their works are easily recognised by the style and quality of the carving, plus the fact that they make use of every mark in the stone to form the picture. There is even an `International Chinese Snuff Bottle Society' with a large and active membership. He is always depicted as a very corpulent man with a bare chest and abdomen and he is the patron saint of tobacconists. Just imagine a lump of Quartz rock that is quite impossible to scratch even with your stainless steel penknife, yet in the 18th century this was carved into a bulbous shaped bottle. These tools were made by hammering metal shapes over the abrasive particles that once embedded, were easily bent to reach the most awkward parts. Be sure to select a few that appeal to you and ask to inspect them. Unfortunately, there are far too many very poor bottles about, some are even brand new, made to cash in from the collecting craze. I can imagine how you find it hard to perceive a collection of bottles based on Chinese paintings but they exist. This is very important if your partner does not share your interest! They can also make a beautiful display without completely disrupting your home.Well hollowed bottlesStone bottles were carved in a large variety of shapes but always with a fairly small opening in the neck normally about 5mm in diameter. It is only possible to make these judgements by comparison. (See the photograph by using the link at the top of this article).Most of the carving was achieved by grinding with Jade, Gem stone, sand and other abrasive particles.Lastly, a superb bottle of fishes with pictures on both sides: the pair of fishes are cameo carved and to the Chinese represent fidelity and happy conjugal rights in marriage. We only know that there was a certain school of carvers known as the `Suzhou School'.Dangerous temptationsMost people's first encounter with these bottles is likely to be at antique shops, auctions or antique fairs, otherwise in a museum or perhaps by meeting a collector.From flaws to picturesEveryone I am sure can appreciate such bottles, as the lovely shapes and purity of the stone just cannot fail to impress.Part of the pleasure of owning these bottles is the tactile appeal found in handling them. Inspect the stone from all angles in the light and with light from behind. You can see how easily he appears, nicely placed within the bottle yet only his head and a suggestion of his hand have been carved.What is really mind blowing to me is the fact that there are some of these bottles with pictures on both sides!Sadly, few of them were signed. I have been told that ones pupils tend to enlarge, and this is one of the signs that dealers watch out for, and as collectors, of course, we always try desperately to camouflage our interest. When inspecting the neck as viewed looking down into the bottle the top surface should be concave, not flat. Eventually, I came round to inspect it and before too long I knew that I had to buy it. (See the photograph by using the link at the bottom of this article). Information is surprisingly, freely shared amongst members and by the specialist dealers. There are others so delicately carved that one instinctively knows that they could not survive actual use.There are collections based on Jade and Hardstone carvings, others prefer Glass and Overlay Glass, or Chinese porcelain, or Enamels and Cloisonne, or you might like to base a collection on Paintings.Over a good many years we have created, though I say it myself, quite an important Snuff Bottle Collection.The Chinese appreciated these wonderful stone bottles and they were fashioned from many types of stone, the purity of the material, particularly the Jade ones being highly prized. The problem is no one knows just what is in the rock until, as the cuts are made, the secrets of the stone are revealed. All these bottles illustrated were made between 1750 and 1860.Beware, amazing glass imitation stone bottles exist. A collection could be based on any of the great Chinese fine arts and in each field it would be possible to have really important fine examples in this form of miniature works of art. It is with this type of material that `Picture Agates' are made. Once you place one in your home and it looks so small and appealing, it is only a matter of time before you will come to the conclusion that a little group of bottles will look so much better. This bottle is very unusual as there is a recess carved originally to create the image that serves as a built in dish. Surrounded by many beautiful and more colourful bottles of all shapes and sizes in a dealers display cabinet, this brown and beige coloured bottle looked rather drab. There is a bond between a collector that leads to friendship, until we meet in the auction rooms that is! It is well worth joining, as there is a very informative, quarterly magazine, full of good colour photographs. They are poorly hollowed, if at all.International connectionsFor anyone considering buying Snuff Bottles I should explain that it is an international pursuit. Should you place them in a bowl of water they will trap enough air to float. These stoppers rarely matched the bottles other than in size and shape. Some collections feature uncarved bottles of rare stones, or Lacquer, or Amber and Ivory. The next stage is to have a closer look at the technical skills. Next it was drilled through the neck and hollowed out through this small hole, so that even difficult areas such as the shoulders of the bottle are really thin. They are amazing bottles when good, but there are later works that tend to look too stiff and the carving lacks the more fluid artistic touch of the master carvers. They also have faults and flaws plus other coloured material, often deep in the stone. First by drilling and then hollowing out by carefully grinding away with special file-like tools. Once seen, certain people are tempted when next coming across a bottle to buy, but all too often these first purchases are of very poor quality. This bottle was purchased, which is still a favourite, and it has formed the basis of our collection. Engraved work at its best is very precise and provides the detail. All Snuff Bottles have a stopper on to which a cork is fixed, and at the other end of the cork is an ivory spoon. Having been members over a long period we have found that fellow members are such interesting and friendly people. As a last resort if still in doubt, a penknife will easily scratch the base if it is glass, whereas a stone will not be marked.Our collectionI should point out that my first bottle did not immediately grab my attention. It is a most appropriate subject and colour for a Snuff Bottle because the russet inclusions have been used to show `Putai Ho-Shang'. The best of these incredible bottles look as if the inclusion, that forms the image, has appeared in just the right place as if to order!There are different types of work within this group of bottles and the first ones are what we call `Cameo' carvings. Experience is needed and takes time to acquire. This tends to play on ones mind and that is how we all get hooked!These take advantage of an outer skin or a blob type of inclusion; they can be quite thick and are carved in relief. These late bottles were not really made for use, and some are referred to as `Cabinet Pieces' and can fairly easily be identified. The first impression will probably China Customized Sintered Powder Metal Pulleys Company be one of disappointment as there will be lots of poor quality bottles and to see so many all lying down, behind glass, is not the best way of presenting them. All these bottles were designed to feel comfortable in the hand and were sealed with a cork, to keep the snuff at its best. Remarkable signed landscape scenes and even portraits with superb calligraphy (often poems) have actually been painted on the inside of glass and stone bottles. On poorer bottles this can be indented, uneven and not so well polished as the rest. They often can turn out to be very costly mistakes. Most of the best stone bottles were made between 1750 and 1860, although many poor bottles have been made since then, right up to the present day. Some just have a drilled hole in them and so they feel far too heavy. In this bottle he appears surprised by a bat whilst sitting below some tobacco leaves.My advice is that apart from joining the society, attend some Snuff Bottles auctions and visit some of the specialist dealers.Snuff bottles were usedThere is one other criterion that I personally believe is important. Only another collector can fully appreciate that overpowering urge that comes over one as it is the closest feeling to that of love at first sight.Most Quartz and Jade stones have an outer layer of a different colour, particularly the pebbles from the riverbeds. Even an article like this one can cause someone to go and buy without sufficient knowledge, I do hope not. Another type is called `Shadow Agates' and these take advantage of markings in the bottle where, with the help of a little carving, an image is created. It was a matter of personal choice as to what type and colour was considered best to go with the bottle. I then have a good look at the foot rim and the neck of the bottle, as these areas are the most susceptible to damage.Our first bottleSo to describe my first purchase, this was a `Shadow Agate picture bottle' involving a little carving, and very well hollowed.