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A small object of artistic quality and of value, made of a precious metal and often embellished with gemstones, such as a snuff box, étui, etc. they are not articles of jewelry in the strict meaning of that term (not being worn on the person, although sometimes they are made for personal use and carried as personal accessories)or objects that are made to be ornaments on a table.
All such objects of artistry, rarity, and luxury, usually of the 17th to 19th centuries, are sometimes called an 'object of vertu', but since the word 'vertu' was applied by Horace Walpole, the term accepted by collectors is 'object of vertu'. The French term is objet de vitrine or the more general term bibelot.
From: An Illustrated Dictionary of Jewelry, autor: Harold Newman, publishers: Thames and Hudson