Object Lesson | Italian Alabaster Box

Porch Nook's "Object Lessons" is a series of short articles sharing my vintage and antique finds over the years, containing just enough information to make you dangerous at the local flea market. Happy hunting!


Object Lesson | Vintage Alabaster Marble Hinged Round Box, Pink Rose Floral Inlay - Trinket Pill Jewelry Powder Box, Powder Jar

Value as of 3/12/20, $7-$25*. Beautiful, gentle and feminine. A piece that could tell a thousand stories and ready for a thousand more. This vintage**, genuine alabaster jewelry box was made in Italy between the 1960s and 1970s and specifically manufactured for tourists. It’s pretty rose and floral inlay adorns the yellow alabaster box, surrounded by a brass band protecting its edge and lid.

Size: 2-3/4” diameter x 2” T

Object Lesson | Vintage Alabaster Marble Hinged Round Box, Pink Rose Floral Inlay - Trinket Pill Jewelry Powder Box, Powder Jar

Since ancient times, the people of central Italy have mined alabaster from the hills of the Tuscan countryside. The ancient Etruscans prized alabaster for its durability over centuries, not to mention its beautiful coloration, natural veining, and luminous effects when held up to the light. It has long been used to craft vases and urns, small decorative objects, as well as larger sculptures.

Object Lesson | Vintage Alabaster Marble Hinged Round Box, Pink Rose Floral Inlay - Trinket Pill Jewelry Powder Box, Powder Jar

Alabaster is an exceptionally hard mineral that occasionally contains little perforations and holes within it. The creation of a piece begins with a block or chunk of alabaster, which might be sawed or roughed out with a chisel and mallet ahead of time to roughly the desired size. If the final result is a vessel like an amphorae or vase, the hunk of alabaster is then fixed on a lathe, and turned and shaped with various chiseling tools. Due to the age of this particular piece I know it was formed using electronic machinery, not by hand.

Object Lesson | Vintage Alabaster Marble Hinged Round Box, Pink Rose Floral Inlay - Trinket Pill Jewelry Powder Box, Powder Jar

The final stage of alabaster production is polishing, critical for achieving the characteristic luminescence associated with alabaster objects. Traditionally, polishing was a multi-step process carried out by hand by women called “lucidatrici”.  Today, polishing is mostly carried out with the help of machines.

Object Lesson | Vintage Alabaster Marble Hinged Round Box, Pink Rose Floral Inlay - Trinket Pill Jewelry Powder Box, Powder Jar

Disclaimers:

*For the sake of transparency, Porch Nook in not an antiquities dealer, nor do we specialize in antiques. However, for many years we've gained experience acquiring and selling old stuff, and hung around a lot of people who also like to acquire and sell old stuff. We gotta tell'ya, they're our kind of people...smart, creative, not shy and will tell you what's what. 

**The common expectation of a "VINTAGE" item is to have a date or decade applied to it. Accordingly, most experts in the trade have decided that the term "VINTAGE" refers to items that are over 50 years old, but less than 100. This kind of standard works when dealing with truly old, but not antique, items. However, this falls short when using the term to describe something newer, and from a specific era. For example, Etys.com's policy states any item at least 20 years old to be “VINTAGE”. Click here to learn more about the differences between "ANTIQUE" and "VINTAGE".

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