Collecting Vintage Perfume Bottles: The History of Perfume Bottles
The History and Evolution of Perfume Bottles (courtesy of http://www.perfumes.com/eng/bottles.htm)
Perfume Bottles in Ancient Times
The enticing scent of the perfect perfume and the eye-catching elegance of the bottle has been an important part of world culture since ancient times. The oldest known perfume bottles came from the Ancient Egyptians. They crafted containers made of stone and alabaster which kept the perfume cool, and prevented the liquid from leaking. The Ancient Egyptians also used clay pots that they sculpted into designs of people and animals.
Perfume was an important part of the Egyptians preparation of the dead. Many of these ancient perfume bottles have been found in tombs. Containers have been found made of wood with different compartments for each perfume.
Glass bottles were also a part of ancient perfume history. They date all the way back to the fifteenth century BC. Perfume bottles made of glass were lightweight, and also prevented the liquid from leaking. Eventually the glass bottles were created in a variety of colors.
Perfume bottles discovered in Palestine were made of glass, and were designed to have a narrow long neck. These delicate bottles were primarily found in tombs. Larger perfume bottles were also found in tombs because it was believed to mask the smell of the dead bodies.
The Ancient Greeks also made beautiful containers to hold their perfume. They hand painted vases which were often shaped as animals. They used lidded bowls for holding less expensive perfumes.
The Roman’s cherished their perfumes. They used hollowed-out precious stones to carry their most valuable fragrances.
Early European Perfume Bottles
Europeans used many different materials to store their precious perfumes. The most common materials that were used were glass, gold, silver, porcelain, semi-precious stones and shells. Perfume was commonly used in the form of incense. Some incense burners consisted of a container held from chains that was swung like a pendulum during Mass in the Christian Church. Stationary incense burners were also commonly used in Churches.
Some European perfume containers were designed to be worn. Semi-precious stones held perfumes and were pinned to clothing. Silver earrings were worn that contained perfume soaked fabric inside of them. Many containers were designed to be hung around the neck, from a belt, or from a finger ring.
Perfume bottles were handcrafted and designed by artists, jewelers and goldsmiths. Each bottle was gently crafted and designed to be worn, or displayed on a table.
Small wooden boxes were created to hold a sponge soaked with perfume. These boxes would fit inside a pocket and could be taken out and inhaled at any time.
Porcelain was used in the Thirteenth Century. Many highly decorative bottles were created. Boxes were created that included perfume and other essentials. Some boxes contained several bottles of perfumes, a funnel and a mixing dish.
Most fragrances during this time were first sold in inexpensive, plain bottles. Then the perfume was transferred into a fancy bottle at home.
Perfume Bottles of the Early 1800s and 1900s
The design of perfume bottles made a dramatic change in the late 1800’s. There was a great incline of the arts movement called Art Nouveau. Most Art Nouveau designs consisted of floral motifs, and were primarily used to design the perfume label and box, leaving the perfume bottles fairly traditional in styling.
Several famous pieces of this time were the Bouquet Nouveau, Royal Vaissier, and Cri du Coeur. The Bouquet Nouveau was a Roger & Gallet perfume. It had a square green-glass bottle with an unusual gilded brass casing. Royal Vaissier displayed magnificent Art Nouveau style paper motifs in the form of a fleur de lys designed by Baccarat. Cri du Coeur (Cry from the heart) was a Lorenzy-Palanca powder box. It had a woman-flower image which is a rare high-style Art Nouveau icon.
Belle Epoque was the preferred style for perfume presentations at this time. The style tended to be traditional, cluttered, very elegant and very French. Examples of perfume bottles of this style were Coronis by Monpelas and Roger & Gallet’s Gloire de Paris.
A new trend in perfume bottles was to create a bottle that looked like a luxurious crystal with an elaborate brass cap. The bottles had classic designs, and the brass caps matched the ornate gold labels and boxes. A few examples of this style were Rose Ispahan and Prince Igor by Riguard, Rose de Chiraz by F. Wolff & Sohn, Stylis by Delettrez, Eros by Richard Hudnut, Le Lilas by Riguard, and Mavis by Vivaudou.
During the 1910’s, there was a noticeable shift in the design of the traditional perfume bottle. The emergence of psychology and new perfume creations led to much more complex perfume bottles and names. The power of suggestion and dreams was having a huge effect on cultures in general, and perfumes were also affected. Perfumes were being marketed for specific times of day, seasons, and people.
Guerlain introduced the perfume “Voila pourquoi j’aimais Rosine” (That is why I loved Rosine). The bottle resembled a vase, and the stopper was concealed under silk flowers. The bottle shape was again used in Guerlain’s “Muguet” (Lily of the Valley). It was later re-introduced in all white with a white ribbon replacing the silk flowers. This presentation was an immediate success. Guerlain later introduced “Le Mouchoir de Monsieur” (The Gentleman’s Handkerchief) which had an innovative bottle with the shape of a triangle and a spiral motif on each side.
Rene Lalique was approached in 1906 by the perfumer Francois Coty to design the bottles for his perfumes. Coty was well established in the perfume industry and desired both beautiful and affordable bottles to hold his perfumes. Lalique was successful in fulfilling Coty’s wishes, and continued to design bottles for his future creations. His most famous designs include Au Coeur des Calices, L’Entrainement and Ambre Antique. He also designed bottles for other perfumers. Some of his most famous creations were developed for Houbigant, Roger et Gallet, D’Orsay, Forvil, and Arys and Molinard.
Other creative perfume bottles of this time were “Rediviva” (Revived) by La Compagnie Francais du Lysogene. It was shaped like a porcelain coffeepot, and the perfume was dispensed through the end of the spout. Illusion was presented by Dralle in 1908. It had a silver case shaped like a lighthouse, and the perfume bottle was held inside of the case.
The Oriental Movement in Paris began in 1910 by Paul Poiret, a famous French fashion designer. Pioret introduced an Oriental style in clothing, furnishings and perfumes. Women, who longed to wear the gowns he designed, but could not afford them, could still wear his perfume. For women who did wear his collections, the perfume was the final touch. Poiret developed a new perfume “Chez Pioret” with beautiful and innovative packaging. The bottle was made of clear glass with a colored glass stopper. It was decorated with gold tassels, and had a new label with a classic “R”. Pioret used his boxes as a tool for expressing the style of the fragrance.
Bichara Malhame was a very successful perfumer in Paris. His famous label on his perfumes portrayed himself seizing a mythological figure of Fortune by the hair. He also appeared on a Baccarat stopper wearing a wig, and appearing as an English judge.
Perfume Bottles of the 1920s
The 1920’s brought a new era to perfumes. After World War I, many American Soldiers brought perfumes back to the states from Paris. This greatly influenced the perfume market in the United States. The perfume industry expanded rapidly, and many new perfume companies emerged.
Many fashion designers expanded their merchandise by including perfume. Most of these designers knew very little about creating a good fragrance, but they did know about style. They understood the importance of the visual presentation, which became vital to the success of the perfume.
Mascarades were very popular at this time, and had a strong influence on perfume bottles. “Masque Rouge” was introduced in a very modern bottle, and the box had a red mask motif. “Mascarades” by Cherigan came in a black bottle with a golden face under a rain of gold dust. “Arlequinade” was a Rosine perfume which resembled a Harlequin costume. It had gilded and clear triangles on the bottle, and a dark-green Bakelite stopper in the form of Harlequin’s hat and an orange wood tassel.
“Bakanir” was introduced in 1927 by Honore Payan. The bottle was a simple geometric shape with a stopper resembling an exotic headdress. The box was covered with painted leather with a ceramic plaque. It was one of the most luxurious presentations for perfume.
Baccarat perfume bottles were designed using superior quality crystal. They designed bottles for most of the perfume companies during this time. Two of their famous perfume bottles were designed in 1927. “Silver Butterfly” by Delettrez was made of pink crystal with silver ornamentation. It was designed in the shape of a vertical hexagon with an abstract motif. “Astris” by L.T. Piver was shaped as a star, and featured a silver six-pointed motif.
One of the most famous perfumes, Chanel No 5, was released by Chanel in 1921. The perfume was revolutionary in scent and presentation. The bottle was a very simple design. The perfume was intended to make the masculine world available to women.
Perfume Bottles of the 1930s
With the stock market crash of 1929, and the depression that devastated the United States, the perfume market slowed down dramatically. There remained a more limited demand in Paris, and only the strongest companies such as Baccarat, Brosse and Lalique were able to continue. The bottles became less elaborate, tended to be conservative and were often machine made.
Perfume bottles during this time were less frequently inspired by nature, and more often reflected Hollywood movies and metropolitan cities. Lalique designed the presentation for “Je Reviens” by Worth. The bottle resembled New York skyscrapers. It was a tall ribbed bottle in dark-blue glass. The stopper was sky blue, and the box had a chrome surface. It was a very modern presentation.
Jean Patou released the perfume “Normandie” in 1935. It was inspired by the luxury ship the Normandie. All First Class Passengers on the ship’s maiden voyage were given a souvenir model of the Normandie. Inside the model of the ship was a crystal bottle of perfume.
Perfume Bottles of the 1940s
World War II caused another decrease in new perfume creations, as well as a decline in the quality of perfume presentations. After the war, the perfume industry was re-established, and many new perfumers emerged.
Christian Dior and Nina Ricci both presented works of art that strongly influenced the perfume industry. “Miss Dior” by Christian Dior was offered in an elegant clear crystal Baccarat bottle. Dior used a classic look that was elegant and luxurious. Nina Ricci was known for feminine and romantic creations. L’Air du Temps was released in 1948 and sold in a sunburst shaped bottle. The stopper was decorated with a dove. The lid of the box was lined with white silk and depicted a woman and a flying dove. The 1951 box was in the shape of a birdcage covered in yellow silk, and was illuminated by a battery.
Perfume Bottles of the 1950s
http://www.zensoaps.com/perfumesale/C-danatabu.jpg Perfumes once again became inspired by romance in the 1950’s. Salvador Dali designed the bottle for “Monsieur Marquay” by Marquay. The bottle featured an elegant man with a top hat and bow tie. The box was simple white with Dali’s moustache and signature.
Christian Dior introduced “Diorissimo” in 1956. The special edition bottle was designed by Baccarat. The crystal bottle was in the form of an amphora, and the stopper had a magnificent flower bouquet in gilded bronze designed by Chrystiane Charles.
“Magie” was released by Lancome in 1950. Every Christmas a special edition was released. It was presented in a Baccarat spherical bottle with stars, and a box covered in leather or satin.
Modern Day Perfume Bottles
Pierre Dinand was the first perfume bottle designer to produce perfume bottles exclusively. Dinand designs bottles with a modern feel, and uses the bottle as an expression of the perfume. He has produced numerous bottles using state of the art plastics, and has transformed perfume bottles in the 1980’s and 1990’s.
Serge Mansau is another modern day perfume bottle designer. He prefers to focus his designs on nature’s beauty. His prize winning bottle for “Montana” was inspired by a maple seed. He has used flowers, stones and waterfalls as ideas for his bottle designs.
Jewelers have also entered the perfume business. Van Cleef & Arpels were the first jewelers to release a fragrance. Cartier followed An Cleef & Arpels with the bottle for Panthere in 1986. Tiffany, Bvlgari, Chopard and Boucheron have also launched fragrances.
Baccarat and Lalique continue to design the highest quality perfume bottles. Perfume bottle collecting has also become very popular. Most collectable perfume bottles come from French perfumes and date from the 19th and 20th centuries.
Modern day perfume bottles are expected to give the feel of the fragrance. The perfume bottle makes the first impression, and often helps the buyer decide if they want to add the fragrance to their personal collection.
Tips for Collecting Vintage Perfume Bottles
Always Keep an Eye out for opportunities to add to your collection! You never know where or when you could stumble upon the perfect bottle to add to your growing collection. Check out estate sales, garage sales, flea markets, antique stores, and specialty vintage perfume bottle websites online. You may even be able to find one or two in your own family, so ask around! What could be more special than a family heirloom perfume bottle in your collection? Decide how you want to collect your vintage perfume bottles. Do you want to only collect a certain brand? Or maybe you want to collect only perfume bottles manufactured during a certain time period? Creating a theme for your collection will make your collection as a whole more valuable and interesting. Do your research. It is good to know a little bit about what you are collecting before you start shopping! This way you will know if you happen to stumble upon a rare, unique find! Knowing a lot about your new hobby will also help you stay engaged. Books such as the Antique Trader Perfume Bottles Price Guide and The Wonderful World of Collecting Perfume Bottles, by Jane Flanagan are great resources for perfume bottle collectors. Don’t discard the mini bottles! When you are shopping for perfume bottles, snatch up the mini sizes of your favorite brands. Sometimes, these are rarer and are worth more than their larger counterparts! Check local events and conventions. You never know when a vintage perfume bottle convention could be coming to a town near you. These are great opportunities to learn more about perfume bottles and find some really great deals and unique bottles. Become a member of the IPBA. The International Perfume Bottle Association. Being a member of this association gives you access to exclusive newsletters and information about vintage perfume bottles. They also hold events each year, including a convention, conference, and perfume bottle auction.