Museum no. C.478-1914
Bonbonnieres were small boxes for comfits or sweets. Tiny lozenges flavoured with roses, violets, liquorice, mint or cloves, for instance, would freshen the breath, calm a cough or settle a stomach. These charming boxes drew their initial inspiration from porcelain versions from Meissen, Chelsea and the French soft-paste factories. But the huge variety of novelty designs for enamelled bonbonnieres was a manifestation of the competitive imaginations of the many toy makers of the West Midlands. This coiled snake's scales were made by light incisions through the painted enamel colours before firing. The earliest embossed hollow shapes were formed by careful hammering or pressing by hand. Then a method was developed of striking the thin copper sheet laid on a concave hardwood 'anvil' with a similarly shaped convex hardwood mallet. Copper could also be spun on a hardwood shaped chuck to form a circular hollow shape. Separate hollow parts were laced together and beaten smooth. After 1769, steel stamps were invented by a Birmingham toymaker, and the process was further facilitated by the 1790s when more durable cast-steel dies were introduced for stamping out the forms.