A whalebone casket

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Northern Netherlands, Zaanstreek
17th century
Brass, Whalebone
6.7 x 7.7 cm

This small box is a special marriage casket, demonstrated by the heart on the side.

The history and use of marriage caskets:

The marriage casket is an engagement present originating from Frisia. In the 17th century a new tradition was established: boys knotted a coin in a silk cloth and presented this to the woman of their dreams. If she tied the knot and thus accepted the gift, the engagement was a fact.

The cloth with the knot was replaced by a silver casket filled with coins. Such caskets were executed in numerous variations: large, small, sometimes cast and sometimes with filigree. The caskets were always decorated with amorous scenes and usually had a bulbous cover.

The current casket is made of whale baleen and brass. Probably the young man was not very wealthy and could not afford a silver one. Nowadays, the baleen marriage caskets are much rarer than the silver ones.

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