Given the nature of perfume, from the confidence it gives its wearer to the indescribable effect it sometimes has on its very targeted audience, it’s not surprising that perfume has long been kept in bottles whose shapes seem to echo the mysterious properties of the fluids inside them. Whether it’s a slender phial, a tiny tear-shaped lachrymatory, or a round, flat-sided ampullae, perfume bottles are designed to contain magic, which is only unleashed when the bottle is opened and a drop or two of the precious liquid is discreetly applied.
Glassblowers in Britain, Bohemia, Germany, and France made perfume bottles throughout the 19th century. U.S. glass manufacturers such as the New England Glass Company and the Boston & Sandwich Glass Company also made perfume bottles during the 1800s. Some of these were hexagonal and opaque (white, blue, and green were common colors), with knobby, pineapple-shaped stoppers. Others were known gemel bottles, in which two flattened oval bottles were joined in the furnace, their necks pointing in opposite directions. Gemel bottles, especially standing ones in bright colors, are especially sought after.
For collectors, a sweet spot for antique perfume bottles is Art Nouveau. Beginning around 1890, artisans and glass factories alike produced elaborate cut or blown glass perfume bottles with ornate caps, some of which had hinged silver stoppers and collars. Purse-sized conical bottles with very short necks and round stoppers were often decorated with gilt flower-and-leaf patterns; manufacturers included Thomas Webb & Sons and Stevens & Williams Glass Company, both from Staffordshire, England.
The same companies also produced perfume bottles in cameo glass. Again, leaves and flowers were popular motifs, in colors that ranged from pink to purple to green, all of which were encased in white. In the United States, Steuben manufactured bulb-shaped perfume bottles using the company’s Verre de Soie technique, with glass threads wrapping the piece and matching the color of its iridescent base. Tiffany’s bottles included short, stumpy crystal cylinders with hob-nail bottoms and ornately engraved silver caps that covered the bottle’s crystal stopper.
In France, René Lalique was a giant when it came to small perfume bottles, which he produced in a series of ever-larger factories outside of Paris for François Coty and other perfume makers. Lalique brought his jeweler’s eye to perfume bottles—he even used a jewelry-casting process called cire perdue, also known as lost wax.
Unlike a lot of his contemporaries, Lalique did not add lead to his crystal. Instead, he preferred a demi-crystal because it was inexpensive, easy to work with, and imbued his perfume bottles with what became his trademark milky opalescence.
During Lalique’s collaboration with Coty, which lasted through the 1930s, he also made perfume bottles for d’Orsay and Roger et Gallet. One such bottle for Roger et Gallet was crowned by an elaborate tiara stopper, one of Lalique’s most copied designs. Another was an opaque green circular bottle with a bird on one side and the words "LE JADE" at the bottom...
Later, as Lalique’s name became as synonymous with perfume bottles as Coty’s, he would make empty vessels so that customers could transfer their perfumes into Lalique’s more elegant containers. Tantot and Amphitrite are just two examples of unfilled Lalique perfume bottles.
During the 1920s and ’30s, glass perfume bottles inspired by the Art Deco movement were all the rage. Natural forms and motifs gave way to geometric shapes and bold, streamlined designs. In Czechoslovakia, perfume bottles from this era are routinely made of blown and meticulously cut crystal. For some of these bottles, the diameters of the stoppers were a great as those of the bottles beneath them, giving these otherwise simple containers the look of a Vegas showgirl wearing an impossibly top-heavy headdress.
But between the wars, Paris was the place for perfume and perfume bottles. Signature shapes for Chanel No. 5 and Shalimar by Guerlain were codified, and beautiful collaborations took place between Baccarat, the legendary maker of fine crystal, and everyone from Guerlain to fashion designer Elsa Schiaparelli. For Guerlain, Baccarat created the Japanese-influenced Liu bottle, with its square-sided black body adorned gold labels. For Schiaparelli, Baccarat produced a bottle in the shape of a candle in a candlestick, with a gilt-metal flame for a stopper.
Best of the Web (“Hall of Fame”)
California Perfume Company
Museu Del Perfum
Historic Glass Bottle Identification
Antique Bottle Collector's Haven
Bottle Cap Index
Old Spice Collectibles
Clubs & Associations
- International Perfume Bottle Association
- Federation of Historical Bottle Collectors
- Little Rhody Bottle Club
- Midwest Antique Fruit Jar & Bottle Club
- Findlay Antique Bottle Club
Other Great Reference Sites
Most watched eBay auctions
Recent News: Perfume Bottles
Source: Google News
Give gifts to look and feel great this ChristmasBury Times, December 12th
The Florence Anne Fragrance Accessories Cosmetic Purse (£6) has enough room for essential make up tools, so loved ones can look and feel beautiful on the go. Florence Anne Boot was born in 1863 in St Helier, Jersey. Married to Jesse Boot in 1886, she ...Read more
Who has free tastings this weekend? PLCB stores regionally running fivePennLive.com (blog), December 12th
Suavia, the antique name of the city of Soave and the surrounding area, is the name they decide to give their new winery to underline the profound connection with the tradition and culture of the territory. They dedicated 30 acres to the ... 12 months...Read more
How I built the Blessings brand–Belinda Brown, perfumerDaily Sun, December 7th
Belinda Brown, though not a celebrity, has built from scratch, her own perfume brand known as Blessings, which is sold in one of the most exclusive perfume shops in the world, the Roja Dove Heute Parfumerie, at Harrods Department Store, London...Read more
Animal-Approved GiftsSalt Lake City Weekly, December 5th
Candy Everything sells charmingly old-fashioned clear toy candy made from antique molds in a variety of sizes and elaborate shapes. Intricate perfume bottles, cute squirrels and owls will make a fun, colorful and tasty contribution to anyone's stocking...Read more
West London's queen of perfume creates her own bit of magic in Actongetwestlondon, November 27th
I leave the 4160 Tuesdays perfumery clutching my Cuban boyfriend in a bottle, smelling not unlike a Tart's Knicker Draw with my head swimming with pictures and my poor old olfactory bulb close to collapse. The book is yet to be published but the...Read more
Five Staten Island stores off the beaten path for holiday shoppingSILive.com, November 25th
From jeweled picture frames and antique pewter candle sticks, to plush Boyds teddy bears and high-end costume jewelry, this small eclectic store -- with items that start at $5 -- resembles a gift shop more commonly found in places like New Hope, Pa...Read more
Gifts for HerSTLtoday.com, November 23rd
It's a Girl's Night Out wine bottle charm and magnet. This charm slips over a wine ... Peacock Parfumerie's vintage-inspired perfume pendant necklace ($37) comes in four faceted gem-like pendants — champagne, onyx, gray and turquoise. Each holds a...Read more
Jean McClelland: Antiques perfume bottles can be interesting, affordable to ...Huntington Herald Dispatch, October 4th
This is quite a popular collectible as is evidenced by the number of books published on the topic, magazines devoted to it and the number of members in perfume bottle collector's organizations. All of these sources are available online and one should...Read more