The tradition of mounting specimen stones can be traced to 16th-century Florentine "pietra dura" work. In the late 1700s, techniques for slicing and polishing stones were perfected, allowing lapidaries, most notably the Dresden goldsmith Johann Christian Neuber (1736-1808), to produce masterpieces in which concentric, radiating patterns of specimen hardstones were set in lids of snuffboxes and circular tabletops.
In this work, the skeleton of the container is in gilded bronze with Roman motifs including scroll patterns, "paterae" (saucer-shaped appliqués), and paw feet. The body is lined with sheets of pink amethyst with traces of fluorite, and the rim is decorated with alternating carnelians and foil-backed amethysts. Set in the frame are sheets of dark brown agate, light brown spotted petrified wood, tan agate, pink agate, and white marble. The "paterae" have centers of banded agate and borders of jasper.
Frédéric Auguste III (1750-1827), Elector of Saxony [date and mode of acquisition unknown]; Nicolai Wasilijewitsch Repnin (1732-1801), 1779, by gift [with thanks for his role in the negotiation of the Peace Treaty of Teschen]; Alexandre Polovtsoff (Aleksandr Aleksandrovich Polovtsov), Paris [date and mode of acquisition unknown]; Henry Walters, Baltimore, 1929, by purchase; Walters Art Museum, 1931, by bequest.