These snuff boxes are typical of the souvenirs collected in the 18th Century by wealthy Grand Tourists.
The black and white box is formed of pieces of volcanic lava from Ischia, near Naples and is particularly interesting.
Inside it are three small pieces of rock and a label identifying them, ‘Three Pieces of Pompey’s Pillar – A present from Capt. Bell of Lincolnshire, January 20th 1797 – He received them from Major Budgard, who had them from the Captain of the Ship, who received them from the Sailors who drank a bowl of Punch on the top of the Pillar.’
The second box has gold mounts and is made of lapis lazuli, a rare and expensive mineral, once found only in Afghanistan, where it has been mined for more than 6,000 years.
Deposits are now also found in small amounts in several other countries.
Its deep blue colour has made it precious since ancient times. When ground to a powder, it is used to create the pigment ultramarine, a colour prized by Italian Renaissance artists.