Oh, I just love these. Not just for the way they look and their advanced age, but for their story. This is a French billet doux. The term translates directly as "sweet note", and self-describes since it is the courier-delivered case into which cortège of Louis XVI and his Queen Marie-Antoinette communicated and summoned their trysts, love affairs. A clandestine meeting? Arranged through quill penned note rolled and put inside and then sent on its way with a courier, who usually stood waiting as the lover wrote a reply and rolled it and tucked it inside. These are rare now, and in their time were elaborately hand painted or decorated. I've had some that ought to be at the Louvre, such lovely small works of art. This one is a bit plain, bt intricately worked and we find scent caddies and vest pocket 'nécessaire' and small carnet du bal from this era worked in this same manner. A look at the motifs engraved into the pearl, a period technique of decorative arts. Tiniest silver marks, I've tried to show them. We don't know who owned and used this one. We just know that someone did, before the French Revolution led many to the guillotine. One love filled this tube.
Very good to excellent condition for age and type. One silver rim is missing on one side of this 2-compartment billet doux. There is a very high hairline in the mop surrounding the set jewel, but it is stable and holds the encased stone perfectly, still. It's visible in our photos. The 'envelope', if you will, is 5.5" long and less than 1" in diameter, easy to conceal. Some want to think this is a cigar holder or a large needle case, perhaps. Nope - all love. Sweet note. This one made of silver and veneered in engraved mother of pearl which once had silver and gold foil in the engraved designs - a little remains. No chips or cracks on the mother of pearl panels, no damage there. Tube ends slip on and off smoothly, no warp. I realize I didn't align the stripes when I photographed it. Please forgive. The green has iridescence to it, the pink is more flat. Shimmers!
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