The Persuasion of Antique Perfume Bottles
Robert Ricci, from The House of Nina Ricci once said, “A perfume is a work of art, and the object that contains it must be a masterpiece;” Antique and vintage scent holders are perfect for doing just that. These beautiful vessels that house the liquid scent come in a variety of differing ages, styles and condition.
The art of perfume making began in Mesopotamia and Egypt, the first known human to create perfume was a female chemist; her name was Tapputi. Modern perfume as we now know it was thought to have been elsewhere, namely in Hungary in the 14th C, it was not long before the art of creating scent spread through Europe, with France soon becoming the epicenter of the perfumery business.
The oldest known perfume bottles date back as far as Ancient Europe, and were made using stone in order to keep the intoxicating scent of perfume cool, they may have featured hand-carved sculptures of animals and human forms on these earlier containers. Glass bottles were in fact made as far back as the 15th C, but the evolution of perfume bottles did not really happened until the 20th C.
During the late 1800’s and early 1900’s these exquisite scent holders emerged, before the 20th C perfume was mainly sold in glass vials, you could purchase these vials full of your favourite scent; a intricate or stylized perfume bottle came at a much higher cost. It was the renowned Francoise Coty who launched the perfume bottle as we know it today, the famed Rene Lalique, who produced beautiful glassware, was commissioned by him to design firstly gold labels and then later the glass bottles themselves.
This commission transformed the perfume industry irrevocably, perfume bottle designs became increasingly stunning during the 1920’s and the 1930’s, in France alone there were over 400 manufacturers of glass bottles in the country; today there are merely three. It was during this period that Art Deco scent holders emerged, featuring bold, geometric shapes and strong lines, the most iconic of which is the Chanel No.5 bottle
As said before, it was in the later part of the 19th C that perfume bottles advanced in their designs, the Art Nouveau style was very popular during this period, and today is very collectable. From the 1890’s onwards these perfume bottles featured ornate tops, silver stoppers, gilt leaf and flower decorations. Notable manufacturers of Art Nouveau scent holders in the UK were Stevens and Williams Glass Company, and Thomas Webb and Sons; both of these companies were based in Staffordshire in England.
It was however Lalique who was the most notable bottle designer, he created many smaller scent holders, and used a jewellery making method in the process called ‘cire perdue’. Lalique also used a demi-crystal, which produce a milky look to his bottles and in doing so became his trademark.
Lalique made bottles for d’Orsay and Roger et Gallet, the latter had a tiara stopper, this design of Lalique’s has since been replicated many a time, his green circular perfume bottle, with a motif of a bird on one side and ‘LE JADE’ on the bottom of the bottle was also a highly coveted design. Over time unfilled bottles made by Lalique became possible to purchase, Amphitrite and Tanlot were two of these bottles.
Another very notable manufacturer was Baccarat, whose scent bottles were made from superior quality crystal. The 1947 Miss Dior bottle in particular was representative of the opulence and extravagance of some of Baccarat’s bottles; this crystal urn had a bouquet of gilt bronze flowers on the top.
In the 1920’s the perfume industry expanded across the US, it was the beginning of fashion designers commissioning chemists to create their own fragrances. Post World War II Nina Ricci and Christian Dior began creating beautiful perfume bottles; these bottles had become an art themselves.
As well as Baccarat and Lalique, Sevres was a fine designer of perfume bottles, as were American bottle manufacturers, New England Glass Company and Boston and Sandwich Glass Company. Tiffany produced some short cut crystal cylinders with ornate silver caps covering the crystal stopper that are particularly attractive.
If you are looking to start a collection, buying vintage and antique perfume bottles is a good place to begin. A fairly affordable collection to purchase, with the cost of scent holders varying and with a myriad of different designs, they look beautiful housed in a glass cabinet or set upon a dresser in the bedroom. When dating a bottle be aware that earlier bottles had stoppers that were handmade, meaning that each bottle stopper and bottle was unique, in the 1970’s plastic stoppers were produced and it is possible to determine the date through this method.
Christian Dior once stated that you could tell more about a woman by the scent she wore than her handwriting. Scents can evoke some of the strongest memories; there is a magical element to the science of perfume, and what better way to house your scent than in a glamorous antique or vintage perfume bottle.
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