Antique South Asian Handmade Brass Pandan Box for Betel Nuts

Antique South Asian Handmade Brass Pandan Box for Betel Nuts


Handcrafted in South Asia, this small brass box is formed in the shape of an elongated octagon, with a stepped hinged lid and a handle on top. This kind of box is very prevalent among internet vintage shops, but is quite commonly misrepresented: this box is not a cricket box, as it is widely and inaccurately described. Rather, this style brass box with punched quatrefoil holes throughout is called a ‘pandan’ box, and is actually intended for the safekeeping of the very popular betel nut chews.

Betel nuts, more formally called Areca nuts, are the fruit of the Areca palm plant and may be classified as ‘psychoactive stimulants’. These nuts are highly addictive when chewed, and cause a warm, numbing sensation of the mouth and act as a quick wake-up mechanism when manducated. Betel nuts are extremely popular across Asia, and so are kept sacred within small, personal boxes until consumed. Brass keeps them safe and the holes maintain freshness.

The latch of these boxes is a great indicator of the preciousness of the items which it is meant to hold; the latch includes a raised metal loop through which one may attach a lock, guarding the Betel nuts from thieving hands. Obviously, there would be no need for such a lock for crickets, as crickets are not strong enough to push open a closed brass box. The back of the box bears two stamped numbers on the lid-side of the hinge as well as the base-side of the hinge. These numbers coordinate so that the makers of the box knew which lid to partner with which base during the production of these kinds of boxes.

While its original purpose is perhaps irrelevant in Western society today, this item may be used for any number of functions. Use to house safety pins, paper clips, hair elastics, or push-pins. Keep small treasures such as rings, necklaces, or cufflinks, or use as an attractive holder for matches in any space. This shiny box is just as charming as it is functional, and may be used for nearly anything, or simply as a bright pop of gold as a home accent.

  • Maker: Unknown, handmade

  • Material: Solid Brass

  • Epoch: 1940s-1950s

  • Dimensions: 3”W x 2.5”D x 1.5”H

  • Procurement: Dallas, Texas

  • Origin: South Asia

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