So hopefully by now all your bottles are cleaned. The next stage is to organize them so you can have meaningful records of the collection. It is worth having good records so that at any time you can recall what you have, when you purchased and interesting facts. The number of bottles you have may influence the way you organize them.

Numerical Order

Number bottles in the order you acquire them – this is simple and all you need are numbers to stick on each bottle. Keep invoices and any other information in a file and remember to note the number down against that bottle. Lilla Perry in her book ‘Chinese Snuff Bottles – The Adventures and Studies of a Collector’ suggests the collector keeps notes on small cards, but in these days of computers it may be easier to keep the records on an excel sheet, a word document or even a programme specifically devised for collectors such as Filemaker Pro.

Organise by Category 

Lilla Perry talks about The Classification of bottles in her book and I have adapted her list to bring it more in line with current trends, as demonstrated in the Bloch Collection books. So divide your bottles into the following groups :

  1. Jade
  2. Quartz
  3. Stones
  4. Glass
  5. Porcelain
  6. Metal, Enamel and mixed media
  7. Organic
  8. Inside Painted

If you are using this system you can number your bottles individually under the category so you use 1.1, 1.2, 1.3 etc.


When writing descriptions for your pieces, include the following information:

  • Material – what the bottle is made from
  • Colour (s)
  • Shape
  • Type of decoration : eg carved, incised, painted
  • Date bottle made (or subsequent additions)
  • Meaning of the decoration
  • Material of stopper, collar and spoon
  • Height of bottle; measured without stand or stopper (and if you like greatest depth)
  • Provenance: name of previous owner (s)
  • Published: name date and author of any book magazine or catalogue in which the bottle appeared
  • Purchased from : Dealer, Auction House, etc
  • Date Purchased
  • Price Paid: make sure to include the currency
  • You may also wish to add a photograph and possibly an insurance appraisal

Here is an example:

Squirrel and Grapes for Blog

4.1 Glass

  • Glass, snowflake ground with a deep red overlay superbly carved, each main side with a single squirrel clambering amongst grape clusters and vine leaves, the base formed by the branch of the vine.
  • Date: 1736 -1795
  • Height: 6cm
  • Provenance:  Edmund F.  Dwyer
  • Katherine Kitchen
  • Lloyd Noakes
  • Published: Christie’s, London, 12 October 198, lot 1
  • Chinese Snuff Bottles from the collection of Lloyd Noakes no 15
  • Exhibited: Los Angeles County Museum of Art, October-November 1984
  • This motif was popular in the decorative arts of the Ming and Qing dynasties.  Squirrels have good reproductive powers and grapes grow in large clusters on vines. Like the bottle gourd, they imply a wish for ceaseless generations of sons and grandsons.
  • Purchased from: Susan Page, October 2018, CP $…..
Stickers (or not) for Identification 

If you choose then to organize your bottles in boxes under the various categories then you may not need to stick numbers on the bottles – you should be able to identify them without stickers. Put all your Glass bottles together in the order of your list.  This also the same if you display your bottles at home – stick to the categories. But if you choose to jumble up your bottles you may wish to use small paper stickers so it is easy to identify the bottles.

Most bottles survive stickers but be wary of putting them on organic bottles as the glue is not good for the bottle. I would avoid stickers on organic bottles. And never put them on lac burgaute bottles.



Category: Guide, Snuff Bottle Care