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i have come by this not to perfect pewter snuff box.   The wee label inside indicated it may have had a sun dial of some sort standing on it at a time.   Very rough shape I know, but I am having trouble deciding just what Age it might be.   Circa ???

No marks on reverse.   Thank you for any insights.  Zeke

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That is a tough one...what I have been looking at is the type of pewter and the hinges and I found this one, which for some reason makes me think yours might be around this time.  No idea, really, just a hunch.

This has been re-purposed, it appears, into a snuff box but  originally it contained a compass.  A sundial is worthless without a compass to determine North.

I also do not believe it's "pewter", that is much too soft a metal to be used several times a day. Iron  or steel interferes with a compass, therefore it's probably brass, maybe bronze or both. Personally I think the black part is leather and the brassy round thing is brass.

Did you notice the Roman Numerals on the brass dial? At 12:00 high is I, II, III, IV, V, VI, and VII. There are letters around the black part too; words usually start at top,center (12:00).  Use you eyes and on a piece of paper write the letters as you see them. It appears to be a foreign language, maybe Greek, Russian (Cyrillic), Latin...

Age I believe is much older, 1500s-1800s. Used on a ship. Look closely at the  stern of the ship and see if you can determine country by the flag, which could determine the language.

Nice find, too bad it's broken. My link differs from Molly's but will give you a good idea of how yours looked.

Funny that you should say that, because I found some that looked very similar to Zeke's, but they all had compasses within.  I could not say anything about the metal because I could not really tell...that is why I looked for a pewter item that had the same appearance.  I also noticed the Roman Numerals and what I thought to be additional letters but since it seemed to stick out so readily, I figured it had already been addressed.

Well, now you really have something to chew on!  Update us if you find an answer to your satisfaction.

Tom, Molly.  Thanks for your efforts to help out! 

Now, I have handled a ton of brass over the years and I am fairly certain it is not brass.  Feels and looks like “pot metal”!   Hate that description but there it is!     Now Tom, I sort of discounted the Roman Numerals scratched into the brass part,they are clearly almost vandalism from some time way back, because they are not spread around the circumference.   So why they are there is a real question.    I did see there is lettering.   I’ll have to get down on my long lost watch bench and get serious I guess, your idea of simply making the effort to write it down is a good one.   

And my sense is it is OLD!   Leather, not sure if you had the opportunity to mess with it you may not draw that conclusion, but I wouldn’t discount it totally either.    

Thank you both again, if I make more of it will get back here and elucidate.  


elucidate....I learned a new word :)

Me, too!  I love learning new words.

Zeke, if you'll  open the link I sent to you and look at other sun dials you will see that the numbers for time are in the same area as yours.  They represent shadows cast by the sun, not hours around a clock face. Since the sun casts different shadows depending which hemisphere you're in the sun dial probably came blank and the owner scratched in his own numbers as he desired. Not perfect, just functional, and not vandalism.

The only brass thing is the round dial. I don't believe "pot metal" was in use when this was made. Leather is a catch-all word for animal skin. Scrotums were often used from seals, walruses, etc. Possibly painted or stained black. Without a hands-on look I can't say for sure. 

Tom!   Why how stupid of me!   I know that!   I do!   But I fear I have reached a point my noodle doesn’t let me th8nk though th8ngs well anymore.   That in itself is troubling, but another matter for a different antique discussion.  Of course, crude but appropriate, those scratches.   I have pulled up a few pages of sundial layouts and get it.   Thank you.      

Still cannot make out the Xs and Is and such around the perimeter.   May try a tracing paper and a soft pencil see if there is enough to bring it out on the paper.    Let yah know!     Zeke

Zeke, are the letters cut or molded into the black  part?  If yes, use a pinch or two of flour and the letters will stand out quite well. Flour washes off with plain water.

As for the X's and I's, those are Roman numerals.  For explanation picture the round dial as a clock's face with 12 being top-center. Rotating right to 1, 2, 3 and 4:00.

Now at 12:00 insert I (i) for Roman numeral one, then ii, iii, iv, v, vi, vii, viii ending at 4:00 PM. As the shadow hits each time period the hour is known. Another U-shaped piece (missing) folds out and gives you the minute!

Another plausible explanation of the "scratches". Assume the times (Roman numerals) were on a 2nd dial (now missing) attached at center hole, and it became bent and wobbly from use and finally broke off. The owner then scratched the numbers onto the face so he could still use it.

I love stuff like this, and yes that's a new word for me too!  Elucidate...

Hi Tom,

yes, I understand Roman Numerals.  Learned to manipulate them many years ago.    And I shall try to extract the lettering.   Maybe I should say, the apparent Roman numerals around the circumference don’t make a lot of sense, in that there are far too many of them.   But itmiccured to me that early Roman Numerals used the primary letters to build up the tens and fifties.   Similar to IIII  for IV.    Hey, I could have let it go but I promise to dig a bit more before popping the thing out to eBay for $ 0.99 and letting it go!

And you guys!   C’mon!  Elucidate?!    Ya’ll made me grin.  My high school English teacher would be proud.   20 vocabulary words a week!   That was one of them!    


Oh, I meant to add.   At the clasp, it the far end of the hinged top where it is deteriorated, along the periphery of these circumferential letterings or whatever, I can almost convince myself there is a Arabic date which is now quite messed up.   So will try the flour.   But first, my old table scanner where I can zoom in on detail.    


The use of sesquipedalian words is appreciated by those who can understand them.

I found a belly dancer's bracelet; was brass and had 1 round yellow metal dingle-dangle on it.  Bunch of funny designs, 4 little sticks design. Discovered it was an old Turkish coin dtd 1837(little sticks were numbers in Farsi). BTW, it was gold and worth $200.  Am wondering if your round dial might be gold? My coin was very thin like yours, about the diameter of a quarter. Before you sell it you might check the metal. Gold doesn't oxidize or turn green; stays bright and shiny. Gold will turn reddish brown in a river if the nugget shares a hole with a piece of iron; absorbs the rust.


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