The different colors on multi-colored overlay bottles can vary from two to as many as ten, although between two and five is the norm. By the early Yongzheng period, lapidaries producing cameo designs with multi-colored hardstones, including jade, were transferring their skills to the carving of multi-colored glass.
The rare combination of colors on this bottle is enhanced by the impeccable carving and well-composed design. Certain groups of mid-Qing glass snuff bottles have been attributed to the Xin or Yuan family of glass carvers (Xinjiapi and Yuanjiapi respectively). Unfortunately, however, the only early information on these families and their wares comes a century after their time and is hardly sufficient for any confident attribution. They are mentioned by nineteenth-century snuff connoisseur Zhao Zhiqian in his Yonglu xianjie, where he writes that the Xin, Le and Yuan family overlays were famous during the Qianlong period: "All the ones made in this way might be called overlays (pi) and the most famous of these are the Xin family overlays (Xinjiapi), Le family overlays (Lejiapi) and Yuan family overlays (Yuanjiapi)." The Xin family overlays are described as similar to those made by the Yuan family, and according to Zhao Zhiqian, "are the most cleanly done, and, as their colors are made out of crushed gems, the luster dazzles the eye". The Le family overlays, on the other hand, "have a lotus[-root] powder ground as white as frozen snow. The way the colors are arranged is also quite extraordinary, with red, purple, sky-blue, and kingfisher-blue alternating one with the other in a natural fashion."
The design on the bottle (bamboo, pine and prunus) represents 'The Three Friends of Winter'. The theme of the Three Friends first emerged in poetry of the Song dynasty and then in paintings of the period. Each plant is symbolic in its own right. Bamboo is naturally flexible and is thus associated with immutability or humility. The pine represents longevity, and the prunus perseverance. As they number three, the Three Friends are also equated to the three religions of China (Buddhism, Daoism and Confucianism), and to the three ideal qualities of a gentleman.