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E4258 Tea caddy, wood / tortoiseshell / metal, maker unknown, made before 1909. Click to enlarge.

A tortoise shell tea caddy

    Plastics have been described as "… materials that can be moulded or shaped into different forms under pressure or heat." In the twentieth century the move away from natural raw materials to synthetically produced plastics changed the way objects were produced, designed and used.

    Before the arrival of synthetic resins, natural plastics such as amber, horn, tortoiseshell, bitumen, shellac, gutta-percha and rubber were used to mould and manufacture artifacts. Horn and tortoiseshell were popular …


    Object No.


    Object Statement

    Tea caddy, wood / tortoiseshell / metal, maker unknown, made before 1909

    Physical Description

    A rectangular wooden tea caddy that has been veneered with mottled yellow and brown tortoiseshell. Each section of tortoiseshell is outlined with a thin metal strip. The tea caddy has a hinged lid, and a keyhole at the centre front. The box sits on four spherical feet. The inside of the lid is lined with red velvet and edged with bone. Inside the box are two tin-lined compartments with lids.



    140 mm


    198 mm


    125 mm


    Credit Line

    Purchased 1909

    Acquisition Date

    4 February 1909

    Cite this Object


    A tortoise shell tea caddy 2021, Museum of Applied Arts & Sciences, accessed 25 May 2022, <>


    {{cite web |url= |title=A tortoise shell tea caddy |author=Museum of Applied Arts & Sciences |access-date=25 May 2022 |publisher=Museum of Applied Arts & Sciences, Australia}}