Rare Madeiran Marquetry Inlaid Vintage Snakewood Jewellery Box

( JB508 )
SOLD ~ Please contact us if you are looking for a similar box and we will endeavour to source one for you!

Beautiful Madeiran marquetry inlaid jewellery box, circa 1930s. Made of stunning exotic Snakewood and veneered/inlaid with a variety of hardwoods. Newly refurbished satin-lined interior.

Rare Madeiran Marquetry Inlaid Vintage Snakewood Jewellery Box

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This is a fabulous vintage jewellery box, made of solid rare Snakewood. It was made in Madeira, Portugal and it dates to the 1930s. The interior has its original storage tray and has been beautifully refurbished with new satin linings.

The Exterior

This box is made of solid Snakewood which is a rare and expensive wood from the forests of Central and South America. The Snakewood has stunning figuration which is extremely pleasing to the eye! Further details of this beautiful wood can be found below.

The lid has a beautiful large veneered panel with a fabulous marquetry inlaid scene. This is surrounded by a broad inlaid frame which has a very decorative geometric pattern. There is a further inlaid frame around the edges of the lid which has lovely diagonal stripes.

The marquetry inlaid scene features two figures in a Madeiran Oxen carriage (carros de bois), pulled by Bullocks and attended by men in traditional period Portuguese costume.

The veneer/inlay consists of a variety of beautiful hardwoods.

The box is complete with its original brass lock and brass hinges.

The bottom of the box has a very old handwritten inscription. This will be from the original or a previous owner of the box. The writing appears to be Portuguese and is a lovely piece of provenance!

Snakewood boxes are fairly rare in general.... it is even rarer to find an old Madeiran box of this type made of Snakewood. This is a very special box and it is possibly unique.


The lock is not functional and so the key is for decorative purposes only.

The Interior

The interior has its original (lift out) storage tray and there is a further larger compartment beneath this.

The tray is made of solid Olivewood and has six lidded compartments of various shapes and sizes. These are perfect for keeping different types of jewellery separate! There is a lovely 'pin cushion' to the centre of the tray which you can pin brooches onto if desired. The tray has its original metal handles which enable you to lift it out of the box with ease. The lids have their original nicely shaped brass knobs.

The compartments/pin cushion in the tray, plus the lower compartment and the inside of the lid, all have beautiful brand new satin linings. These are a gorgeous teal blue shade. The lined panels to the lower compartment and the inside of the lid have been padded.

The lower compartment is wide and spacious. It will hold a good amount of jewellery including large pieces such as watches, bangles and beads. The padded satin panel in this compartment provides protective cushioning for jewellery.

The refurbishment has been carried out by our skilled box restorer.


Circa 1930s - Art Deco period.

History/Further Information

This box originates from the island of Madeira, probably from the village of Monte which is high in the hills above the capital city Funchal.

The Oxen carriage depicted in the marquetry is a sedan sled. These carriages with wooden runners were the means of travel in Funchal. Wheeled carriages were regarded as unsuitable because of the city's uneven cobbled roadways, steep hills and sharp bends.

The earliest oxcarts are believed to date as far back as 1477. They fell into disuse in the 1970s for hygienic reasons and because the roads had been improved.

The tradition of these carts has been kept alive in the form of sleds known as 'Monte Sledges'. These are used to carry tourists from the village of Monte to Funchal. They still go down the steep hill known as the 'Toboggan run' and they are operated by men dressed in traditional costume.

Some printed information relating to the above will be sent with this box.

The Snakewood

Snakewood is an expensive exotic timber because it comes from small, relatively rare trees. The trees are in forests in Central and South America (coastal regions in the Northeast of South America). It's also expensive because it's a very durable hardwood which is resistant to rot and insect attack. Further to this, it is highly sought after because of its beautiful figuration!

Snakewood gets its name from its beautiful characteristic snakeskin-like pattern. It is reddish-brown in colour with beautifully contrasting dark brown or black streaks and speckles. It has a natural high lustre (much like you see with varieties of Satinwood) and so the wood gives off a beautiful sheen, particularly when it catches the light. Snakewood is sometimes referred to as Letterwood because its beautiful dark streaks and speckles often have the appearance of Arabic/hieroglyphic letters.

Snakewood is a very dense wood which can be difficult to work with. It can become brittle and splinter when being worked but it turns well and finishes to a beautiful lustre as mentioned above. Because of the difficulties in working with this timber, it is very rare in general to find fully figured pieces of it. This makes boxes and other items of Snakewood, sought after and fairly expensive.

This box is made from the beautiful face grain of Snakewood. End grain is much darker and is sometimes almost black.

The Olivewood

Olivewood has a distinctive grain and rich colour which gives it a beautiful appearance. It has characteristic brown and yellow streaks which make for a beautiful contrast. These features make it a sought after wood for decorative items such as jewellery boxes.

Olivewood is also favoured for its hardness. It is a strong durable wood with a fairly high density and it takes well to cutting and polishing.

The Olive tree primarily grows in the coastal regions of the Mediterranean. Its wood has been used for many years by Italian box makers in particular. It is also a favoured wood in areas of the Holy Lands such as Jerusalem.

Our Jewellery Box Restorer

You can read about Jim, our wonderful box restorer, by visiting our About Us page.


This wonderful box is in excellent condition. It has sound structure and only minor light wear/fine surface scratches. The wear is commensurate with age and honest use. The box has clearly been very well looked after.

The hinges are in good working order. The lock is not functional, as stated above. 

The interior linings, being new, are in immaculate clean and unworn condition.

All of the inlay/veneer is present and secure.

There is a narrow gap between the lid and body of the box when the lid is closed (middle to the right side). The lid doesn't close completely flush in this area but this is not overly noticeable.


Please use the following measurements to ensure the box is the right size for your requirements.

Length:   28.8cm
Width:    18.6cm
Height:     9.0cm

Interior Lower Single Compartment:

27.8 by 16.3cm with a 3.4cm depth.

Storage Tray - Front & Rear Centre Compartments x 2:

14.3 by 4.3cm with a 1.7cm depth.

Storage Tray - Left & Right Side Compartments x 2:

15.2 by 6.1cm with a 1.7cm depth.

Storage Tray - Left & Right Centre Compartments x 2:

5.7 by 4.1cm with a 1.7cm depth.


This box will be posted FREE within the UK by Royal Mail Next Day Special Delivery.

NO International postage. We are very sorry but we cannot offer international postage on this particular box, due to its large size and weight.

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