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What are Antique Perfume Bottles?

Mary McMahon
Updated May 17, 2024
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Antique perfume bottles are bottles produced to hold perfume in an earlier era. Many people define bottles as “antique” if they pre-date the 1920s, although some people push the date back even further, to 1900 or the 1800s. In any case, antique perfume bottles demonstrate construction techniques which are no longer in widespread use, and people collect them because they are interesting relics of human history, and because many are also quite lovely.

As archaeological evidence indicates, humans have been making perfumes for thousands of years. The Greeks and Romans both used perfume readily, as did the Egyptians and many ancient Asian cultures, and some very fine examples of ancient perfume bottles of historical interest have been discovered at sites around the world. The dividing line between “antique” and “ancient” falls for most people around the 1700s, although it is extremely rare to find affordable bottles from this period on the open market.

A number of construction materials may be involved in antique perfume bottles and atomizers. Glass is common, especially in the case of perfume bottles from Italy and the Czech Republic. Porcelain was also in common use in regions like France, and in Britain and some other regions, metal or combinations of metal and glass were used for perfume bottles. Many bottles include jewels, beading, precious metals, and other decorative accents which can add to their value considerably.

The perfume is usually long gone, although faint traces may linger, but an antique perfume bottle has its own intrinsic beauty. Many bottles made in the 1920s, for example, had lavish Art Deco styling, while bottles from the 1800s feature hand-painted flowers. Hand-blown bottles from the 18th and 19th century often have very individual looks and feels, as do handmade porcelain bottles molded into a variety of shapes. People may display antique bottles as a collection in the home, or use them as decorative accents alone or in small groups.

Some collectors focus on antique perfume bottles from a particular era, using established techniques such as examining the markings of a bottle to get clues to when it was made and how it was constructed. Other people simply like to collect antique perfume bottles which they find pretty, regardless of era of production. It is also possible to collect bottles from a particular region of the world, or the products of a specific manufacturer. Some people even use antique perfume bottles to hold perfume, giving them as unique gifts.

Numerous guidebooks to glass bottles provide information about how to date bottles and identify their regions of origin. Antique perfume bottles can be found for sale at auction sites, antique stores, and websites dedicated to antique bottle collecting, although novice collectors would be well advised to consult an expert before making an expensive purchase, to confirm that a bottle is genuine.

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Mary McMahon
By Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a WiseGeek researcher and writer. Mary has a liberal arts degree from Goddard College and spends her free time reading, cooking, and exploring the great outdoors.

Discussion Comments

By Heavanet — On May 06, 2014

@rundocuri- Those are great tips for using and displaying these unique items. Antique perfume bottles can also be used to fit various other eras. For example, several companies made these bottles in the 1970s, which would look great in a home with this type of retro decor.

By Rundocuri — On May 05, 2014

I have a few neat tips for people who love antique perfume bottles.

If you have a home that has Victorian style and furniture, antique perfume bottles make great accessories. They look beautiful on vanities, in guest bathrooms, and even in display cases so that all of your guests can see them. I think that the kind made of glass with atomizers have the most authentic qualities.

To make your antique perfume bottles look even more authentic, it is a great idea to fill them with perfume or water so that they appear to be full and in use. For display purposes, clear glass antique bottles look beautifully filled with water that has been tinted various shades with food coloring.

Mary McMahon

Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a...

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