Boxes of this form were made in the second half of the seventeenth and first half of the eighteenth century using a variety of metalworking techniques. The circular form with bulbous lid can be traced back to mediaeval Iranian domed caskets but concave walls such as those of this box are typically Indian. Mark Zebrowski published a number of these boxes in his seminal work on Indian metalwork, Gold, Silver & Bronze from Mughal India (London, 1997. cat.11, p.40, cat.19, p.44, cat.452, p.266). They are identified as pandan, and were used to keep pan, a mixture of slices of the nut of the areca palm and lime paste wrapped in betel leaf which was a recreational delicacy.
The closest comparable example to this box, of identical shape and similar openwork decoration is a gilt-copper box in a private collection, published in Zebrowski, op.cit., cat.455, p.267. Although catalogued as 17th century it is more likely to be mid-18th century as our box is dated AH 1170/1756-57 AD. In his discussion of the box, Zebrowski states that ‘the minutely pierced, subtly interlocking arabesque is, along with the use of Arabic script, absolutely typical of the Persianate taste of the Deccan where the naturalistic floral ornament of Mughal India is notably absent'. Both boxes are inscribed with Shi’i invocations, also supporting the Deccani attribution.