Three Zarfs

mid 19th century

The Khalili Collections

The Khalili Collections

In the Islamic lands coffee was usually served in a small cup (fincan), made of ceramic or glass, that was held in a metal holder (zarf). Frequently produced in small sets, the cup-holders could be made of base or precious metals, the latter often further decorated with enamel and jewels. During the 19th century, the ever-enterprising Genevois goldsmiths realized the potential of this market and proceeded to manufacture substantial quantities of zarfs for export. Constructed from a basic skeletal frame into which enameled panels, filigree-work or gems could be incorporated, most of the zarfs, although eye-catching, did not represent the pinnacle of Swiss craftsmanship. The palette of enamel colours used – in many instances strident combinations of lime green, cerulean and pink – and the decorative motifs favoured – musical instruments or military trophies and clusters of polychrome flowers – were the same as had been adopted for the snuff boxes they produced for this market.


  • Title: Three Zarfs
  • Date Created: mid 19th century
  • Location Created: Switzerland, geneva
  • Type: ARTIFACT
  • Medium: gilded and painted opaline glass, gold with translucent, opaque and painted enamel, seed pearls

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