A vinaigrette was a small box for smelling, which was carried in the pocket or purse and used to counteract the unpleasant odours that were sometimes encountered when walking along city streets. The construction was always an outer box, with a lid, usually hinged, and then inside would be another hinged or pull out grill under which a piece of sponge was placed. Today one would soak the sponge in perfume but originally sweet vinegar was used ( hence the name Vinaigrette). These boxes came in many shapes and sizes and with an infinite number of decorative styles.They should be hallmarked on the base, top, and sometimes, but not always, on the grill.
Vinaigrettes are very much an object of the nineteenth century, although they started to be made in the late eighteenth, around 1780.The earlier ones tended to be simpler in design and decoration with the grill being just a plain surface with a few pierced holes. The heyday for this type of box was in the Victorian period, one of the most skillful and prolific, and therefore sought after, of the makers being Nathaniel Mills. Vinaigrettes are much less common after 1900.