While the finest aquamarine gemstones are of flawless blue color, pieces large enough to be fashioned into a snuff bottle are very rarely flawless. The majority of aquamarine snuff bottles date from the late Qing/20th century, but the material was popular at Court during the second half of the 18th century and into the early 19th century. This bottle is part of a small group of plain, thick-walled Imperial snuff bottles in the material from that period. The thickness of the walls deliberately reveals the depth of the color of the stone. The rounded, rectangular shape was a standard form for imperial jade, coral, agate and other stone bottles.
The use of aquamarine for snuff bottles greatly increased after 1759, when the area where it was mined in Xinjiang, was conquered by the Chinese. Large quantities of the stone were sent as tributes to the Court, with the best stones reserved for imperial use.
For a range of examples in aquamarine and a discussion of semi-precious stone bottles see H. Moss, V. Graham and K.B. Tsang, A Treasury of Chinese Snuff Bottles, The Mary and George Bloch Collection, Vol. 3, Stones Other than Jade and Quartz, Hong Kong, 1998, pp. 108-21, nos. 408-12.
A similar aquamarine snuff bottle from the Hildegard Schonfeld Collection was sold at Christie's New York, 21 March 2013, lot 1008.