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.
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Bottles put fizz in these collectors' livesRochester Democrat and Chronicle, April 19th
She has some perfume bottles and several that once contained salve for horses that pulled boats on the Barge Canal. She also owns a collection of antique fruit jars and on Sunday she was shopping for one of those. Zoller doesn't pay more than about $60 ...Read more
Art openings, classes, events in and around AshevilleAsheville Citizen-Times, April 17th
Reception from 1-3 p.m. May 1 for The Kaplan Collection: Vintage Perfume Bottles. Jay and Pamela Kaplan have been collecting perfume bottles from the DeVilbiss Company of Toledo, Ohio, for more than 20 years. Their collection includes more than 400 ...Read more
Perfume Notes: phoenix brandsTelegraph.co.uk, April 9th
BY Josephine Fairley | 09 April 2015. Perfume Notes: pheonix brands. If you spend much time mooching around flea markets (as I do), you'll know there's a fast-track to being disappointed by a vintage fragrance - and that's to open the bottle...Read more
8 Things You Need From London NowThe Dieline (blog), March 30th
Founded in the 1860s, Penhaligons Perfumery is an iconic English perfume house, whose owner famously became the Perfumer to Queen Victoria. With such a royal history, it's easy to see a ... the packaging design for them is really lovely. They are light...Read more
"Focus on your dreams...they go beyond common sense". We spoke to Anna Sui ...Bath Chronicle, March 30th
She lives and breathes the spirit of the rebellious, young bohemia reflected in her designs, and mixes vintage styles with her current cultural obsessions. .... Her iconic make up packaging and fragrance bottle design have even become collectors' items...Read more
Italy's Santa Maria Novella: The ancient perfume store you've never heard ofCNN, March 27th
The rather plain entrance gives no inkling of the aromatic treasures within this 600-year-old establishment, which still uses ancient recipes to make its modern-day perfumes and skin care products. Stepping inside, I'm engulfed by a potent fragrance of...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
Vintage Baccarat Patanwalla perfume bottle brings $63000 at club convoAntique Trader, July 9th
JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – The International Perfume Bottle Association (IPBA) recently concluded its 24th annual convention where members from 19 countries converged to share their collective interest. The keynote address was provided by award winning ...Read more