INDIANAPOLIS – Collected by their designer, era of production, or for their aesthetic appeal, perfume bottles are one of the few forms of “glassware” that continue to hold strong in today’s soft market.
Incredibly enough, while they can be extremely pricey, they can also be unearthed digging through box lots at estate sales and flea markets. It is, no doubt, the “thrill of the hunt” combined with the beauty of their design that merit them a place at the top of "most popular collectibles" list for the summer of 2019.
The Art Deco period (1920 until the Great Depression) featured simplicity of design and bold geometric shapes. To cite an example that most of us can envision, picture a bottle of Chanel No. 5. Introduced in 1924, and arguably the most recognizable perfume bottle in the world, it was the essence of Deco design. This clear glass bottle featured a rectangular body with an octagonal stopper that resembled the Place Vendome column in Paris. French designs were an early favorite and remain strong today with notable works from Lalique and Baccarat.
While clear crystal was often used for early Deco perfumes, bright colors such as cranberry red, amber, dark jade green and the dramatic combination clear and black crystal became popular by the late 1920s. Faux “jewels” such as rubies, emeralds and sapphires often adorned the bottle, and silver overlay was quite common. Geometric designs predominated the era with vertical hexagon, triangular and star shapes being the most common finds, although you will occasional find butterfly and birds designs.
Stoppers took center stage by the late 1920s as huge crystal or Bakelite stoppers rivaled the size of the bottle beneath. Full tiara, fan, feather and pagoda shapes and high relief stoppers in the female form are all highly sought by collectors. The dowels of these stoppers were all finely ground and their condition is of great importance when determining value, so remember to inspect the stoppers as well as the bottle itself when you are considering a purchase.
The glamor of Hollywood was instrumental in the popularization of Czechoslovakian blown/cut glass perfume bottles. Featured in exclusive salons by Max Factor and used as props in movies of the day, they became an instant collectible. Brilliant use of color, hard geometric angles, enameling and acid etched designs are featured on these bottles. They were largely made for the “unfilled” market and sold to retailers for their own fragrances. Two names are synonymous with Deco-era Czech glass: Henry Gunther Schelevogt and Heinrich Hoffmann. They manufactured both their own designs and the works of many of the artists of the day. Watch for their jet black crystal bottles and brightly colored glass examples with glass jewels.
The crown jewel of any perfume collection is the addition of a "factice". These rare, oversized display bottles were never meant to be sold, but were lent to store owners by the major perfume companies to be used for advertising. They are most commonly found at specialized auction, but they do surface from time to time at yard sales and flea markets.
Many of the bottles you will encounter will contain stagnant perfume and need to be cleaned. This is quite simple.
First, fill the empty bottle with equal parts of warm water and vinegar, shake gently and let set for an hour. Next, empty the bottle contents and refill half full with warm water. Now add a teaspoon of mild dish soap and a teaspoon of uncooked rice. Shake the bottle gently for 30 to 60 seconds and then let set for one hour. Finally, empty the bottle and rinse with warm water. Let air dry for at least 24 hours before replacing the top.