Small caskets in a variety of materials were a popular feature of European domestic life in the 15th and 16th centuries, often given as tokens of affection. In Germany, one of the favourite methods of construction was to make them of steel and then etch decorative motifs into the surface using acid. This involved covering the surface of the casket with a material such as wax, and then scraping away the wax in all the background areas. These exposed areas of the steel were then bathed in acid, which 'bit' into the surface while the areas protected by the wax remained untouched. The wax was then removed, and a form of black ink was rubbed into the etched areas to provide a greater contrast with the reserved areas of the design.
Acid-etched caskets of the 16th century were extremely popular, and numerous examples of this type exist today. However, the present casket is of an exceptionally high standard, with an elaborate panelled construction, and beautifully detailed decoration. The decorative motifs were almost certainly drawn from print sources, which circulated widely in Germany at the time. One of the most influential of these printmakers was Virgil Solis, who was active in Nuremberg from the 1540s. A number of prints emanating from his workshop are relevant comparisons for the designs to be found here (O'Dell-Franke, loc. cit.).