There is something incredible about antique perfume bottles. Each of them carries a story behind the refined shape and glassy elegance. There are thousands of designs out there, but some of the most unique ones can leave you breathless with their beauty. Their appearance and connections with the past are just two of many reasons why collectors are so passionate about these antique items.
Antique perfume bottles are famous for their elegant shapes and creative presentations. Their refined outlines, colors, and glamour are the legacy of a bohemian past. However, it is only within the last few decades that old perfume bottles have become popular with collectors worldwide.
But which are the most valuable antique perfume bottles? This guide will take you through the history and value of perfume bottles, identification of bottle styles and top names in the industry.
The History Of Decorative Perfume Bottles
Artists first started to develop perfume bottles during the late 19th and early 20th centuries. They served as containers for perfume as well as vessels for advertisements. Each perfume bottle was an expression of refined elegance and suited for both functional and decorative purposes.
Initially, antique perfume bottles were produced to sell a specific fragrance in a competitive market. Manufacturers added highly decorative elements and shapes that were popular during their era of manufacture to make them pop. The intention was simple: catching the buyer’s attention and making them want to smell and, of course, buy that perfume.
Today, there is a massive interest in the market of collectible glassware among bottle collectors, and it is easy to understand why…
Antique Perfume Bottles: Features
Humans have been using their creative minds in making perfumes for thousands of years. Nevertheless, it wasn’t until the late 19th century that packaging changed from an ordinary bottle to a marketing tool. Hence perfume packaging became as important as the scent itself.
This shift was mainly caused by the increase in mass-market manufacturing, the “new woman” ideal, and the department store culture during the 19th century. Creative artisans of the period took an interest in the glassware trade and began using their creative skills to achieve works of art.
If you are not sure about the authenticity of your old perfume bottles and how much they are worth, then carefully identify them using these guidelines…
Cut glass is one type of glassware used to create antique perfume bottles. Its inherent crystalline appearance was ideal for designing patterns and motifs in the glass. The artists make sharp cuts in fluid or geometric shapes across the bottle’s surface and then polish the patterned surface. This cut glass technique was prevalent during the 19th century, and can help to certify the authenticity of an antique perfume bottle.
Many Bohemian perfume bottles from this era were manufactured with a beautiful array of bold colors. Expect to find deep reds, rich greens, or bright teals in antique perfume bottle designs.
Similarly, another trend which became quite popular promoted softer pastel tones like pale pinks and yellows towards the end of the Art Nouveau era.
Stoppers and Atomizers
Some old perfume bottles will come with a stopper or an atomizer. Atomizers were more frequently used during the mid-century. Once squeezed, these systems will convert the liquid into an aerosol that will spray the skin and clothes evenly.
However, stoppers were more likely to seal the bottle during the 20th century. These details were carefully designed with the same attention to detail as the bottles themselves. Stoppers were by far the preferred sealing style for antique perfume bottles.
The premiere glassware designers of that period applied their skills to create whimsical patterns and figures out of the glass. The results are true masterpieces such as full blooming flowers, ballet dancers, or birds sculpted into perfume bottles.
Antique Perfume Bottle Styles
Many antique collectors will seek treasures dating back to the Art Nouveau period (1890-1914). This era represents the peak of perfume bottle creation. The style was a mix of romantic femininity and pure art.
The most popular Art-Nouveau techniques are pliqué-à-jour enamelling. These peculiar shapes and features make the Art Nouveau bottles a highly valuable item for collectors.
The inclusion of a sterling silver overlay, like in the example above, is an appealing feature. It exemplifies the undulating curves and the romantic lines typical of the Art Nouveau style.
Antique enthusiasts can easily recognize silver elements crafted onto clear glass. Some examples feature colored glass.
Take a look at this beautiful Art Nouveau specimen.
Art Deco Perfume Bottles
The Art Deco bottles date from the 1920-1939 period, bursting onto the scene with their bold, glamorous style. Perfume bottles from the Art Deco period represent the essence of Art Deco design.
Perfume bottle collectors appreciate the Art Deco style and consider them a microcosm of the culture at that time. Art Deco designers started creating unique shapes and lines due to advancing technology, and modernity was key to their work.
The most famous artist from this age was René Lalique who designed bottles for Coty. Here you can see one of his marvelous works. The perfume bottles signed by Lalique incorporated geometric motifs and highly stylized shapes.
Most Famous Antique Perfume Bottle Designers
During the 19th and 20th centuries, many glass designers faced tight competition between their creations. They wanted to make the most visually attractive perfume bottles by coming up with innovative designs.
While huge fashion names like Schiaparelli and Chanel launched their perfume bottles, other glass artists were becoming more famous and sought-after:
Perhaps the most appreciated glass artisan from the 20th century, René Lalique was a leading contributor to the development of the perfume industry.
Born in a small town in France, he spent most of his younger years in a Parisian suburb, where he gained a lot of experience in glass craftsmanship. Quickly he became a huge name in the Art Nouveau perfume bottle industry under Francois Coty’s line in 1908.
His outstanding glass sculptures incorporate impressive lines and proportions nobody dared to use before. Nevertheless, he never sacrificed the femininity and delicacy of his works. He quickly became one of the most appreciated bottle designers in the early 20th century.
Thomas Webb & Sons
Led by Thomas Webb himself, Thomas Webb & Sons was a group of engravers and glass artists from the 19th to early 20th century. The team used to dominate the market back in those days with their distinctive, orignial perfume bottle designs.
One of the particular features of their models was animal-inspired motifs, along with bright colors ranging from blue to red and all kinds of shades in between. The full-sized perfume bottles were mostly covered with round stoppers in unique shapes and colors.
Suppose you are looking for the most atypical perfume bottle designs from the early 20th century. In that case, a bottle by Heinrich Hoffmann is one you will want to add to your collection. More than perfume bottles with simple practicality, the artist focused on creating exciting shapes women could display in their boudoir.
Hoffman’s works represented Art Deco designs with particular geometric shapes. The artist designed perfume bottles with stoppers that weren’t as colorful as other contemporary works during that era.
Other Designers Worth Your Attention
The list of relevant antique perfume bottle artists go on and on with glassware designers from the 19th and 20th century period. For example, these names are worth looking out for:
- Emile Galle
- Vogel & Zappe
- Henry Further Schelvogt
Where To Buy Genuine Antique Perfume Bottles?
Antique and vintage perfume bottles are the ideal collection pieces for novice collectors. They come in various shapes and styles and are easier to find compared to some antiques. However, how do you know if your desired item is a genuine antique?
You can go to reputable dealers regarding authenticity, origins, and quality. Stores selling high-quality antique pieces, or independent antiques dealers are what you should look for. If you don’t mind using mainstream online sources, check:
On eBay, antique perfume bottle sellers come in ample supply, and their selection is quite varied. However, you should always check their reviews and selling history to know the products they sell are genuine.
Take a look at the product pictures and check if any numbers are placed on the bottom. They can give you a clue about where, when, and for what purpose the bottle was made. Don’t be afraid to ask the seller for more details about their items.
Amazon is an online selling platform for new and used products rather than vintage and antique pieces. You must double-check every offer; otherwise, you may receive a fake antique item or a replica.
This can be an excellent source for buying and selling antique perfume bottles. The offers are varied, and so are the sellers. Again, check the sellers’ reputation and make sure the items listed are authentic antiques before making a purchase.
You may find antique perfume bottles all over the internet. Online antique stores can offer an excellent selection and experience, but searching for the right piece requires time and patience.
If you can, check for any possible discolorations, crack, or chips and the bottom of the items you want to buy.
How To Value Perfume Bottles?
The leading factor that determines the value of perfume bottles is their rarity. Finding a rare piece is like discovering a treasure, as the top products from years ago were often produced in limited editions. Interesting features and unusual elaborate details are likely to make an item more rare and hence more valuable.
Antique perfume bottles are usually made of glass but they can have a different metal or plastic elements. Some may even be ceramic although this is more unusual.
Check for crystal bottles with unique stoppers and exquisite designs. The fewer flaws the glass has, the more expensive it will be.
All antique perfumes have a stopper usually made of the same material as the bottle itself. Bottles are filled with scented liquid, then tipped to deposit the scent onto the stopper. Once the stopper is removed, the perfume can be applied to the skin.
Newer perfume bottles come with atomizers, which allow the liquid content to be sprayed on clothes, hair, or skin. Some bottles may come with a cork, but it is unlikely to be the original cork as this material deteriorates quite quickly.
Antique perfume bottles were not only meant to keep the fragrance as fresh as possible, but as actual pieces of decor. Many women displayed these containers in their boudoir to show their wealth or passion for perfume.
The most collectible perfume bottles have peculiar shapes, rich colors, and ornate designs. The stoppers are also art pieces with elaborate designs, usually made of crystal.
Sometimes, you may be lucky enough to find an antique perfume bottle with numbers, a logo or a signature on its bottom. If not, you can upload a picture with your item on Google Images or an antiques forum and see if you can find a bottle with similar features.
Flaws And Damage
Yes, that’s right – chips, tiny cracks, or a faded color can be visible indicators of the age of a perfume bottle. Check every small detail that may give you insights into your perfume bottle’s origins and history.
Some videos from professional collectors may also be helpful in learning more about the authenticity of your antique objects:
Q: Which antique perfume bottles are the easiest to find?
A: Antique perfume bottles with atomizers are the most accessible on the market. Many were produced during the 1920s, but they became more and more popular in the sixties.
Be aware that some of them might not be antique but vintage, so if you want a genuine vintage item, you should go for the ones with crystal stoppers.
Q: Are antique perfume bottles worth the money?
A: If you are interested in collecting them, then absolutely yes. An antique sterling silver perfume bottle can go up to $500, while a pair of crystal perfume bottles may be set at $400. Remember that the rarer the pieces are, the more expensive they are. There is no hard and fast rule when it comes to the value of antique perfume bottles, as their condition, rarity, materials and provenance can affect the price greatly.
Q: Where is best to sell old perfume bottles?
A: When selling antique perfume bottles, collectors will divide into online platforms and offline ones (such as antique markets and even yard sales). If you don’t mind selling on mainstream online platforms, eBay and Etsy are simple options with great collectible content. It can be advantageous to go to an auction, antique store or yard sale in person so you can inspect items and ask key questions for yourself.