Born in Neuwunsdorf in 1736, Johann Christian Neuber (1736-1808), mineralogist and goldsmith, was apprenticed at the age of sixteen to Johann Friedrich Trechaon, a Dresden goldsmith originally from Stockholm, Sweden. Neuber became a master of the goldsmith's guild in Dresden in July 1762 and in 1769 became director of the Green Vaults. By 1775 he had been appointed Hofjuwelier to the court of Friedrich Augustus III. Neuber is credited with the development of the technique Zellen mosaik lapidary, in which hardstone panels are suspended en cage, so that they are held in place within a fine geometric cagework of gold, a technique which is similar to creating cloisonné enamel, a style of enamel decoration in which the enamel is applied and fired within raised soldered wires on a usually metal ground.
A box by Neuber with a very similar figure of a chimney sweep on the cover is in the Victoria and Albert Museum, inv. no. Loan: Gilbert. 418-2008, and illustrated in A. Kugel, Gold, Jasper and Carnelian Johann Christian Neuber at the Saxon Court, London, 2012, no. 27, ill. no. 27, pp. 137 and 339. The decoration on the sides of the present box is very similar to a box in the Hermitage that has a hardstone monkey on the cover, State Hermitage Museum, inv. no. E-6244. The size of the present box suggests that it was probably made for a lady to use, either as a boîte-a-journée or perhaps as a bonbonnière. In an advertisement in the Journal der Moden of April 1786, Neuber offers 'oval and circular gold boxes for gentleman and ladies, as stone cabinets, mounted in gold and lined with gold, of all Saxon country-stones, such as carnelians, chalcedonies, amethysts, jaspers, agates and petrified wood, numbered, together with an inventory of names, and where they can be found; a box for gentleman (Manndose) costs 150-300 Reichsthaler, a box for ladies (Damesdose) 90-150 Reichsthaler', W. Holzhausen, Johann Christian Neuber, ein sächsischer Meister des 18. Jahrhunderts, Dresden, 1935, p. 12.
In Germany a chimney sweep is a symbol of good luck and sweeps from the 18th century originally dressed in an all black suit with gold buttons and a cloth hat. Brides are thought to have an especially lucky marriage if they are kissed on the cheek by a sweep on the day of their wedding, and even shaking the hand of a sweep you meet on the street is thought to bring good luck. To this day, it is customary in German society to give gifts of figurine sweeps around New Years as signs of luck, and it is considered especially lucky to meet a sweep on New Years Day, a sign of good fortune for the year to come.