article # 80



by Fred Sinfield ©
(click on photos to enlarge image)


A new dealer was at a regular monthly fair with an interesting collection of items that mainly originated from the Middle East. One piece that caught the collector’s eye was a small circular box with an engraved crown on the lid. On closer inspection was a surprise as on the base was punched Tiffany & Co.

A lift off lidded gold box engraved with a crown that has an act of regicide associated with it. (on the right)

Having purchased the 14kt gold box with a lift off lid that weighs 47.6grams and measures 50x20mm, a check of the other punches revealed that the “M” was for Louis Moore, president of the Company from 1947 to 1956 and that '21054' was a design created in 1927. Scratched on the base is '15446', which is probably Tiffany’s stock code. (photos below)
circular box with an engraved crown on the lid

Tiffany mark number scratched on the base
The base of the box with the punches “Tiffany & Co. Makers. 14kt Gold. '21054' and 'M'. The letter was for Louis Moore, president of the Company from 1947 to 1956 and the numeric code indicated that 1927 was the year of the design (on the left)
On the base of the Tiffany box is scratched '15446', the significance of which is uncertain but is probably a Tiffany retail stock code. (on the right)
Months later, having established an acquaintanceship with the dealer, the curious collector brought up the question of what was thought to be a fantasy crown. Why he did not do this in the first instance is unknown, as the dealer knew the story that had its beginning after the First World War with the enthronement of Faysal I as King of Iraq in Baghdad in 1921.
His son succeeded him in 1933 as King Ghazi (1912-39) but died in an accident so his infant son, born in Baghdad on 2nd May 1935, succeeded to the throne under the tutelage of an uncle who acted as regent until the young king attainted his majority.
Amongst the gifts from the Jewish community of Baghdad to celebrate the King Faysal II Coming of Age was the Tiffany gold box engraved with the crown of Iraq. Confirmation that this was indeed the Iraqi crown was via two sources being the Iraqi flag of that period and the engraving on a locally made silver salver, circa 1950, featuring a bust of the King.

A silver salver, circa 1950, with the bust of the King Faysal II that helped to identify and confirm the crown of Iraq on the Tiffany gold box (on the right)
engraving on a Iraq made silver salver, circa 1950, featuring a bust of the King and the Iraqi Crown
The reign of King Faysal II was short as an act of regicide ended his life on 14th July 1958, also killed were members of his family, associates and even the family pets. After this bloody event, came the disposal of assets that included the gold box, which later came into the possession of the Baghdad dealer who eventually fled the country for the safety of Jordan.
From there, the dealer managed to take the box with him into exile and offered it for sale at the collectors fair.

Amongst the other assets of the murdered king were incense burners.
These large and important silver pieces of hollow ware are in use thorough out the Middle East. The freestanding burners known as a mabakhir or mubkhara hold hot charcoals upon which is sprinkled incense and passed from hand to hand to appreciate and enjoy the fragrance. The shape of these burners stylized, over time, has the now familiar flared open top.

The one illustrated originated from the adjacent Kingdom of Saudi Arabia. The story of that modern kingdom began on 18th September 1932 when King Fu`ad ascended the throne. In recent decades wealth poured into the country due to the oil exports and imports increased.
As a token of appreciation, during the reign of King Faysal of Saudi Arabia, was a presentation to an ambassador of a mabakhir.
The piece is 280cms high, weighs approximately 58ounces and came from the workshop of Ahmad Bader of Mecca who engraved his name upon it. Fig 5 & 6
Incense burner from the workshop of Ahmad Bader of Mecca Ahmad Bader of Mecca name engraved on the incense burner
A freestanding mabakhir or incense burner with a flared open top for hot charcoal, onto which is sprinkled incense and passed from hand to hand. (on the left)
The mabakhir weighing approximately 58ounces that came from the workshop of the silversmith Ahmad Bader of Mecca was a presentation by the Saudi government in acknowledgement for services rendered. (on the right)
There are no assay marks as the reputation of the silversmith was the guarantee of the quality, confirmation of this being the presentation by the Saudi government. The silver is at least .917, being the standard of both the silver and gold coins of the realm.

Set in silver gilt around the base of the mabakhir are alternate turquoise and green stone cabochons and on the bowl are green stones alternating with the arms of Saudi Arabia. The overall decoration is of floriated design with the four supporting columns in silver gilt. This is similar to but not as impressive as the silver and gilt incense burner set with emeralds and turquoise presented as a State gift to President Nixon as seen on -
Incense burner with the arms of Saudi Arabia incense burner set with emeralds and turquoise presented as a State gift to President Nixon
The overall decoration of the incense burner is of floriated design with the arms of Saudi Arabia and four supporting columns in silver gilt (on the left)
The silver and gilt incense burner, set with emeralds and turquoise, presented as a Head of State gift to President Nixon. (on the right)
The story of incense, its use and importance to the region makes fascinating reading.
Just when nomads realized the dried sap of the tree of the genus Boswellia of the Burseraceae family gave off the pungent sweet odour when heated is unrecorded but occurred centuries ago.
The gum is still obtained by the ancient method of making incisions in the trunk of the tree that exudes as a milk-like sap which hardens on exposure to air, collected then broken into small pieces for use as a fumigate.

The Sultanate of Oman acknowledges the importance of incense by erecting a large bowl in the traditional form in the centre of a roundabout. On each corner of the base is another important object being rose water sprinklers. These have religious as well as secular usages from Spain right through to China and made mainly silver or sometimes gold in a variety of styles and even gem encrusted. (Footnote 1).

It is important for future reference to establish of the providence and recording the information of the box and the mabakhir that had an association with the ruling families in adjacent Middle Eastern kingdoms.

large bowl erected in the Sultanate of Oman in the traditional form of a incense burner rose water sprinkler
Incense, its use and importance to the region is acknowledged by the Sultanate of Oman by a large burner in the centre of a roundabout together with rose water sprinklers at each corner. (on the left)
Usually made of heavy gauge silver is a typical rose water sprinkler with a bulbous reservoir and a perforated head in the form of a rose, widely used for religious or secular purposes from Spain through to China (on the right)
Acknowledgement to the private collector who made the items available for inclusion in this article.

Footnote 1:
Various museums have rose water sprinklers such as the Topaki Sarayi Muzesi, Istanbul; the Hermitage, St Petersburg; the National Museum of Singapore and the Smithsonian to name a few.

Choo, A.A. 1984. A Guide to the Collections. National Museum, Singapore.
Zebrowski, M. 1997. Gold, Silver & Bronze from Mughal India. Alexandria Press, London
Fredric Sinfield © - 2007 -