Vinaigrettes, popular from the late 18th century through the mid-19th century, were small containers used for holding various aromatic substances, usually dissolved in vinegar. A tiny piece of sponge, soaked in the liquid, was contained beneath a grill or perforated cover. The vinaigrette was used by both men and women at this time, though by the 1820s it was almost exclusively a feminine accessory. Carried in a pocket or reticule, or suspended from a chatelaine at the waist, it was used to mask unsanitary odors and for direct inhalation of its restorative vapors. Since one never knew when emotion or tight lacing would overcome one, the vinaigrette needed to be near at hand and its aromatics quickly accessible. The hinged lid allowed it to be flipped open, like a snuff box, with the flick of a finger.
This exquisite little vinaigrette, British, gloriously chased, is in 10 carat gold, gold being resistant to discoloration from the vinegar. Measures 1 1/2″ x 1″ x 3/8″.