Walnuts have been used as ornamental containers for miniatures and as handmade Christmas ornaments and decorations for a very long time. The most common uses include as hulls for miniature sailboats, as cradles for mice or other small animals, or as backdrops for tiny miniature scenes, especially those made of simple or natural materials. The nuts can be left untreated, given a shiny coat of glaze, or silvered or gilded. For these purposes the English walnut or Juglans regia is the preferred nut as it cracks open more easily and more reliably in two pieces than the black or American walnut. For ornaments which look like hooded cradles, crack the nut into two equal parts and then use a coping saw or razor saw to cut one half into the hood shape and glue it to the other half of the nut.
To Use Walnuts as Containers for Miniatures - you will first need to crack open the nut along the 'seam 'line. Use nuts from the current year's crop which have had their hulls removed. You will need a nutcracker to ease the nuts open, the simple straight 'plier' type shown in the photo above is the easiest and least expensive to find and use. Try to find ones that have a flat, slightly ridged surface that grips the nut. It will make it easier to apply even pressure to cause them to split.
Antique Silver and Gold Walnuts - Walnuts made from silver and gold were decorative small boxes in Victorian times, often holding a vinaigrette, a small pierced container that held a sponge soaked in vinegar and scented oils, to act as a personal air freshener. Silver half walnuts were also used as salt cellars and mustard pots, or opening silver walnuts could be jewellery boxes, even a silver walnut tea ball. Something about the shape of the nut and the way it divides makes it very appealing as a hinged container. Gilded and Silvered walnuts were a common early Christmas tree decoration in Victorian times.