Enjoy unlimited access: just £1 for 12 weeks

Subscribe now

Born the son of a goldsmith in Metz in 1658, Willaume appears to have been working in London from 1686 and registered as a largeworker in 1697.

From then, his reputation soared with commissions for wine coolers, ewers, wine fountains and other such items from clients including the Dukes of Devonshire, Portland, Abercorn and Buccleuch.

The 4in (11cm) wide, 7.6oz snuff box, an early 18th century piece and probably c.1710, was catalogued for the auction on March 4 as a ‘military snuff box’ engraved with a coat of arms within a border inscribed Tria Juncta in Uno and Viguteur Du Dessus.

It was a minor work for Willaume – by this date prospering in his St James’s premises – but with bidders being as confident as the auctioneers in the maker’s mark, it was always like to leave the £100-150 estimate behind.

It did so selling online at £2250.

Snuff itself fell from fashion a century or more ago but the vessels made to contain it remain hugely collectable in all their forms.

The buyer’s premium at Adam Partridge was 20%.

Edinburgh Snuff Box

Another snuff box topped the silver section at Lyon & Turnbull in Edinburgh on February 23-24. This example was by James Ker, Edinburgh 1735.

Made for the table rather than the waistcoat pocket, it measured 7in (18cm) wide and weighed 16.7oz. Engraved with the crest of the Marquesses of Tweeddale, it sold within estimate at £6500.

The buyer’s premium at Lyon & Turnbull was 25%.