From Mae West’s signature scent stored in a cigarette packet, bejewelled bottles from the 1800’s to novelty perfumed powder puffs chaped like 1920’s flapper girls… the Perfume Bottles Auction will delight and tempt every fragrance fiend…
The annual Perfume Bottles Auction really is a date in the diary of serious scent collectors – with the most stunning examples of artistic and rare fragrance flaçons you wever will see (outside of a museum, anyway).
Since 1979, organiser and founder of The Perfume Bottles Auction, Ken Leach, has been working ‘to create public and corporate awareness of the artistry to be found in vintage perfume presentation.’ His antique shop’s show-stopping merchandise ‘has served as a source of inspiration for glass companies, package designers, and celebrity perfumers, before ultimately entering the collections of perfume bottle enthusiasts around the globe.’
This year, because of the on-going global pandemic, it has presented something of a challenge to the organisers, but happily the entire catalogue is now online for you to view (and gasp outloud at!) with the auction to take place via live stream on Sat, Jul 11, 2020 8:00 PM BST.
What’s more, in response to the global crisis, the LiveAuctioneers website is dontaing to COVID causes such as Meals on Wheels COVID Response Fund and global relief efforts, with over $50,000 already donated.
Here’s just some of what we’d be bidding on (and would be gracing the dressing table of our dreams…) in this year’s incredible collection of lots…
How completely wonderful is this novelty ‘cigarette packet’ style packaging for what was Mae West’s signature scent? Made in 1933, the box is covered in iconic quotes from the bombshell movie star, and the lot includes five ad cards and a counter display. A case of ‘come up and smell me sometime…?’ Estimated price: $2,000-3,000
In 1937, Pinaud trademarked the name ‘Scarlett’, releasing the ‘Flirt’ perfume in 1939, with a matching Clark Gable ‘Bittersweet’ scent when the film premiered that year. The bottles were available with a choice of scents, including Apple Blossom, Maghnolia and Honeysuckle, and came with an autographed photo. Estimated price: $1,000-$2,000
Lalique were instrumental in revolutionising perfume bottle design and production, and we love their contemporary fragrances (and the way they incorporate their heritage into bottle production today), but this 1929 bottle for Lucien Lelong in frosted glass with enamelled swags and silvered metal case is just exquisite! Estimated price: $7,000-8,000
Our co-founder, Jo Fairley, loves Schiaparelli Shocking perfume so much she wore it on her wedding day – and did you know the pink for the box was designed by Schiaparelli herself, and gave name to what we still call ‘shocking pink’ to this day? Dating from the 1930s, the auction includes 3 figural soaps, a 1938 ‘Shock in the Box’ perfume, a Salvador Dali-designed face powder and scented boy lotion bottle. Truly, our heart’s desire! Estimated prices from $200-600 per item
Fragranced dusting powders were all the rage once, and we don’t think we’ve ever seen a more fabulous version than this 1920’s Goebel glazed porcelain powder dish. Imagine being a movie starlet or ballet dancer and reaching for this to dust away shine with puffs of perfumed powder – it’s enough to make us swoon with delight! Estimated price: $600-$800
Could you ever splurge on an all-time lust list fragrance, or save the cash by buying more pocket-friendly (but still utterly fabulous) ‘fumes? We all have fantasties of winning the lottery and suddenly having access to the rarest scents in the world… But when reality hits and more attainable scents are the name of the game, what, I wondered, would some of our favourite social media fragrance commentators choose…?
Persolaise Splurge: If money were no object, I’d love a full bottle of vintage Diorissimo extrait (price… priceless?) in the famous, gold-topped Baccarat flacon. Actually, I’d be happy with some vintage Diorissimo in ANY bottle, but if we’re dreaming, let’s throw in the Baccarat. I could probably write a whole dissertation on why I love the perfume so much, but if I had to sum up my feelings, I suppose I’d say that, for me, it is THE most perfect example of a perfumer both reflecting nature and putting his own personality on it. Roudnitska’s nose was being guided by the scented gods when he made it. It is an absolute masterpiece.
Save: I might go for Gorilla PerfumeKerbside Violet £29 for 30ml eau de parfum from Lush: a modern, uniquely urban take on florals, mixing that strange, green, lung-filling ‘openness’ of violet leaf with smoke, concrete and exhaust fumes. Genius.
Viola Levy, Scents & the City Splurge: If money were no object, I would go for a dazzling bottle as much as the fragrance itself – and for stunning perfume bottles, you can’t go wrong with Lalique (they pretty much invented the concept!) Their limited edition Crystal Collectible Bottle in Naïade €1,200.00 is a miniature work of art, featuring a mermaid-like Art Deco figurine as the stopper, while the fragrance inside: ‘Lalique de Lalique‘ ticks all the boxes when it comes to my favourite perfume notes (jasmine, rose, blackcurrant and sandalwood). I like to think of this scent as the equivalent of an off-the-shoulder cashmere cardi – old-school elegance with subtle sex appeal. Plus you can never go wrong with a mermaid, can you?
Save:Coty‘s L’Aimant,£14.49 at Boots for 50ml eau de toilette, would be a no-brainer. Created by François Coty (dubbed ‘the father of the modern perfume industry’) it was launched in 1927 at the Galleries Lafayette in Paris and is an incredibly romantic concoction. The backdrop was the Roaring Twenties – of girls emboldened by their contribution to the war efforts and the greater freedoms this had allowed them – which lead to the perfume being promoted as ‘the pure essence of Modernism – vivacious, warm and magnetic – the passionate woman’s perfume.’ Certainly it’s similar to No.5 in its composition: sparkly aldehydes, rose and jasmine (always a winning combination for classic scents), but it’s got a lighter spring in its step and a certain sparkle all of its own.
Sarah Gallogly Splurge: If money were not an issue I would blind-buy Mendittorosa Osang. It has a lot of my favourite notes in it such as honey, frankincense, myrhh, labdanum and sandalwood and Mendittorosa is a perfume house I would really love to explore further. I recently tried a sample of Le Mat and it’s straight up beautiful! I can only imagine how spectacular Osang is…
Save: For a fragrance under £40 I believe you can’t beat Lush and I would reach for I’m Home £25 for 30ml eau de parfum, or Cardamom Coffee £39 for 30ml eau de parfum– both wonderful and with sweet, resinous depth. Lush make excellent and creative perfumes for such an affordable price, and I’m a big fan.
Sam Scriven, I Scent You a Day Splurge: My fantasy bottle would be Aedes de Venustas Pelargonium £210 for 100ml eau de parfum, without a doubt. The first time I smelled it, I got emotional. That’s happened about twice in my life, and as a blogger, I’ve smelled thousands of scents. Pelargonium is a woody floral, but so seamlessly blended it’s like a cloak of iridescent fairy wings merging into each other. It’s mainly geranium, but it’s also musk, oakmoss, spices and smooth orris. Just perfection.
Save: There’s a huge choice of great value fragrances at the other end of the spectrum, but if I had to narrow it down, I’d go for Lanvin Arpège £29.99 for 100ml eau de parfum. It’s a classic aldehydic chypre created in Paris in 1927 and it makes me feel like a grown-up sophisticated lady even when I’m in pyjamas. Trust me, that’s powerful. Because my pyjamas don’t even match.
Viola Cserkuti Splurge: If money wouldn’t matter, I’d possibly get a lot of raw materials and make something, or rather experiment with my favourite notes: say, a kilo of Iris butter? I’d be pretty over the moon if I could go into Fortnum & Mason and buy a super fancy Caron bottle and get it filled with Farnesiana from one of those glass samovars (price on request!)
Save: I’m a big fan of discovering affordable scents in unexpected places. I love &Other Stories’s Sardonyx Fire £28 for 50ml eau de toilette, it’s very on-trend with a lot of iso-e super and ambroxan, metallic and musky with sweet florals in the background.
Blueberry Chicks Splurge: The first perfume I’d choose is unavailable today, but if somebody had a sealed version I would have spent my (imaginary) thousands on La Rose Jacqueminot by Coty. I love rose and it is a legendary perfume. It was used by one of the last Romanoff princesses! For a modern perfume, it would be Puredistance White £455 for 100ml eau de parfum – because it smells like diamonds! I have never met a fragrance that’s so deliciously ‘posh’ and yet fresh. The first thing that comes to my mind when I smell it is a sumptuous ballroom full of finely dressed ladies.
Save:Jennifer Lopez Deseo£10.95 for 50ml eau de parfum, on the contrary, is a recollection of a tropical holidays on the beach. A sweet memory doing nothing all day, with a pina colada in one hand and a book in the other.
Having salivated at the thought of the luscious lottery-win type fragrances mentioned above, and added many of the budget-friendly options to my own shopping basket, of course I couldn’t resist throwing my own scented suggestions into the ring…
Splurge: Oh go on, then, I’ll have a bottle of the original Guerlain Mitsouko, from when it was first released in 1919. Can you imagine? The thing is, I’d want to time-travel back and buy it myself, dressed to the nines in a velvet Opera coat by Elsa Schiparelli, with an ebony cigarette holder and scarlet lips, being shockingly daring yet romantic – presaging the turn of the century and those Bright Young Things to come. One spritz of this (well actually, as money is no object, several lavish applications) and I could snuggle in the cinnamon infused, milk-lapped plump peach skin and oakmoss for hours. In reality, the current reformulation by Thierry Wasser is as close as we’ll get, thanks to oakmoss restrictions, and it still smells *expletive* wonderful.
Save: If you’re looking for something with a sassy swagger, which smells about ten times more expensive than it is, consider unleashing your inner Diva with Emanuel Ungaro‘s much-overlooked masterpiece. First released in 1983, it’s a pleasingly buxom affair of softly powdered rose and iris with a purr of ylang ylang and sandalwood. And the perfumer? None other than Jacques Polge, darlings. Yes, he of the many, many Chanel fragrances. But this can be snapped up at £29.95 for 100ml eau de parfum. I know. You’re welcome.
Every year, some of the world’s most rare and beautiful perfume bottles are gathered together in one room, at the Perfume Bottles Auction (and going for eye-watering prices, as you’ll see, below!) ‘The longest-running specialty auction of it’s type worldwide, returning clients have come to expect unique, undocumented, and seldom seen bottles to be offered by the Perfume Bottles Auction.’
Bidding on these precious lots are flacon collectors and a good number of museum directors, all desperate to get their hands on these utterly stunning pieces. This year’s auction took place in conjunction with the International Perfume Bottle Association‘s 30th annual convention in Tyson’s, VA, matching the previous year’s already staggering result of $400,000 within a few dollars. Oh my goodness, how we would have loved to be there! Which of these would you have bid on, given a chance…?
Now we have the incredible results (and heart-flutteringly fabulous pictures of the bottles) of what they realised, as told to us by the Perfume Bottles Auction representative… ‘A large and enthusiastic crowd compeated with online bidders, multiple phone lines, and a number of absentee bids over 250 lots chosen to suit every pocketbook – resulting in a wide spread of wins from a 1925 Terre de Ritz figural powder box formed as a 17th century court lady ($120) to the 1940 Helena Rubenstein “Gala Performance” ($24,000, seen below) formed as an actress with outstretched arms standing in an elaborate stage-set box of ostrich plume and velvet.
Bottle designs of 1925 proved to generate special interest and some of the highest results, including the Julien Viard bottle for Myrugia “Besame” with it’s rare love-birds images on label and box ($19,200); the French comic-strip inspired black and white auk character for Coryse “Alfred” ($9,600); Rene Lalique‘s dancer and butterflies motif for Erasmic “de Lui” ($13,200); and the alluring fan-themed label, box, and scent name of Oriza L. Legrand “Eventail” (fan) topping the sale ($39,000) at triple it’s pre-sale estimate.
A fine grouping of R. Lalique items featured perfume bottles, powder boxes, hand mirrors, and a rare 1930 three-chamber perfume tester bed with miniature stoppers as nude maidens for Maison Lalique ($8,400). The auction drew particular interest from a number of museum curators over three historically significant Guerlain bottles including “The Moorish Bottle” a rare 1910 hand decorated bottle by Pochet & du Courval ($9,600, seen above). All three went to museum collections.
Other highlights in the commercial bottle category include the surrealist female bust of 1941 Lilly Dache “Drifting” ($19,200); the 1938 Baccarat white crystal fan for Elizabeth Arden “Cyclamen” (9,600); and the 1927 Marblehead Art Pottery Egyptian pharoah bottle for Leigh “Amber Nile” ($10,200, see feature image at top of page).
The sale included several lots of perennially popular 19th century scent bottles featuring a Thomas Webb peachblow bottle with applied gold cherry blossoms ($960); an 1850s miniature gourd with hand carved Napoleonic images ($660); an 1887 silver-capped British porcelain monkey ($480); and an 1870s crystal chatelaine bottle with ruby, sapphire and pearl set silver mounts ($1,320).
Dominating the evenings offerings was a beautiful private collection of 1920s-1930s Czechoslovakian crystal bottles, which became a buyer’s paradise due to the large selection and variety, scattering winning bids to between $500 and $2,500, and sending an exceedingly rare Ingrid bottle simulating carved lapis birds soaring ($7,200, seen above)!’
And for those of you hoarding stashed of fabulous flacons, consignments are now being considered for the 2019 auction in Chicago. For further information contact Auction Director: Ken Leach at [email protected]
Perfume collectors can range from the casual – ‘I’ll just add a couple of special bottles here and there’ – to the fragrantly fervid – ‘I absolutely must have them ALL!’ – but one Jean Paul Gaultier fan’s perfume collection is bound to tempt auction bidders when it goes under the hammer, comprising over 5,000 rare and unopened items…
Including all the official bottles, counter displays, associated merchandise and even uncirculated prototypes, the dedicated collection will be sold by Special Auction Services in Newbury on Tuesday 5th September 2017.
Estimated to be worth over £7,000 in total, the envy-inducing collection surely quickly outgrew the dressing table of the vendor’s late mother, having begun over 15 years ago when she was browsing an airport’s Duty Free shop and spotted the Classique bottle’s likeness to Madonna’s infamous cone bra – a pop star she’d loved since the 80s.
The anonymous vendor says: ‘Initially mum intended on wearing the perfume but she never did. On researching the brand, she discovered just how many different designs had been brought out and she became hooked on collecting them all. Growing up in Belgium and being fluent in French made it significantly easier for her to obtain bottles from European collectors and trade shows.’
Jean Paul Gaultier scents are known for their flaboyant, eye-catching designs, offering limited edition seasonal changes of outfit for the flacons and thereby especially appealing to bottle collectors worldwide. Talking about his mother’s growing obsession, the vendor continues, ‘Anytime friends or family went on holiday, we looked out for the new season’s collection and she also was an avid Ebay-er and made most of her purchases online. It started out with just the bottles, and then the displays to match. Over the years, one cupboard became one room, which in turn became one floor of the house!’
The collection is to be sold in group lots, highlights include a large collection of Jean Paul Gaultier miniatures (estimate £150-250); nine unopened limited edition perfumes, including five 100ml bottles titled Charm, Gold, Automne-Hiver, Rock Star and a glittered Classique, together with four 75ml including two Curvaceous Corsets in orange and a rechargeable natural spray (estimate £150-200), and a set of shop displays for the purse and pocket sprays, a bath range with bottles, soaps and creams, a cantilevered Couture Box with spray and soap as well as other items (estimate £100-150). Phew!
Jessica Forrester, Expert at Special Auction Services says, ‘It is fantastic to see such a varied range of such an iconic brand. The fabulous shapes and designs have a huge appeal and very much reflect the Collector’s love of fashion, architecture and photography.’
Which of these bottles do you have – if unopened or rare, perhaps they’re worth a pretty penny, too? Sadly we fear none of our bottles remain unopened for very long – we can never wait to spray…
For further information about this spectacular scent sale, see specialauctionservices.com
Written by Suzy Nightingale
Obsession isn’t just the name of a perfume – it’s a very good description of the fragrant madness that creeps in to every perfume collector’s life sooner or later. And there are many differing types… The completists – those who absolutely must have every single version of particular scent; the vintage fans who insist on owning (and sometimes wearing, if they’re in good enough condition) history, bottled. Talking of bottles, perhaps the largest collecting community within the perfume world are those who fill their homes (and garages, and sheds) with particular types of flacon – from ultra rare examples that reach eye-watering prices to retro scents in charmingly bizarre shapes – for these collectors, the perfume itself is actually secondary: they’re alllll about the bottle.
For the latest edition of The Scented Lettermagazine, we focused on the mysteriouly enticing world of collectors and their collections – and one of the main images we used was kindly supplied by a VIP Subsciber, Phoebe Tan, who happened to mention ‘Oh yeah, my mum collects minis. She has quite a few…’ For “quite a few” please see the featured photo, above, and you’ll understand why we just had to interview Phoebe’s mum, Lindsay Yeo, to find out more.
Lindsay: ‘I first became interested in perfume when I went shopping in a department store about 30 years ago. There was a promotional event for Lancôme where I did a questionnaire that proposed one of their perfumes to match my personality. The winning one was… Magie Noire. I really loved it. Before this, I used to hate perfumes because people around me wore very heavy fragrances (this was in the 70s). But this event made me discover that I just hadn’t found a perfume I truly liked! That same day I bought my first full size perfume which came with a miniature bottle that caught my eye…’
Once the fragrant bait has been taken, it’s a short step to full-on perfumista status, we’ve long known. And Lindsay mused how it was ‘…funny I still have the full size bottle long after it was emptied.’ Of course we had to know how many she had stashed, and Lindsay confessed: ‘I just went to count and I currently have close to 500 bottles (most of them are minis!). This is the first time I’ve counted and I am quite shocked, actually.’
When asked what set her on this miniature-perfume collecting path, Lindsay explained ‘I really only wanted to collect the miniatures so initially I would buy full-size bottles for the minis. The first few I bought were: Magie noire by Lancome, Paloma Picasso , Lou Lou, Anais Anais by Cacharel, Ysatis by Givenchy, Ruffles by Oscar De La Renta, Gucci No.3, Beyond Paradise by Estee Lauder. Years later I found shops that sold the minis on their own – without the need to buy the full-sizes – and that is how I started collecting. It’s kinder on the pocket!’
So what exactly does a collector look for in a bottle – what catches their eye and makes them think “I MUST have that!”? For Lindsay… ‘I look out for interesting designs. [NB: The “lighter” shaped bottle, above, is a particular favourite of Lindsay’s.] To me, perfume bottles are pieces of art! They are so beautiful. Miniatures are not easy to come by so I really treat them all as treasures.’
Clearly, the passion for perfume runs in the blood, as Phoebe Tan first became interested in chemistry and then – when she made the connection between science and the art of perfume – she was totally hooked. Now setting her heart on a career in fragrance, Phoebe has been studying (and is soon to graduate from) for her MSc Cosmetic Science’ at London College of Fashion, University of the Arts London. And having sniffed some of her “course work” examples, we’re pretty sure Phoebe’s own fragrances will be added to future collector’s scent stashes…
Written by Suzy Nightingale
Imagine a room stacked with the most precious perfume bottles in the world – crystal flacons glinting and variously dipped in gold, lavished with gems, painstakingly enamelled or perhaps a revolving perfume carousel. Such visions are not merely scenes torn from Marie Antoinette’s diary; for once a year, perfume lovers, collectors and dealers from around the world gather to not only marvel at the impeccable selection, as you might in a museum’s display; but to bid on them and take them home….
Having fallen madly in the love with the extremely rare 1928 Parfums de Marcy, trompe l’oeil presentation “Le Bracelet Miraculeux,” – five scents disguised as an art deco bracelet [see above], which sold for $33,000 (a teeny bit out of our price range, sadly…) we knew they would be special – but these are above and beyond.
This year, the Perfume Bottles Auction will take place at 5pm on Friday, May 5th at the Hyatt Regency in Princeton, New Jersey. We’re aware many readers possibly wont be able to make it there in person, but we absolutely guarantee you’ll want to feast your eyes on the sumptuous bottles as we take a look at some of the highlights submitted thus far. The auction catalogue hasn’t even yet been printed, so we were thrilled they were kind enough to get in touch and ask if we’d like a sneak peek.
Well yes. Yes, we would.
The Perfume Bottles Auction is directed by Ken Leach; each year he seeks out the most desirable and unique perfume bottles. This highly prestigious event is the longest running specialty auction of perfume bottles worldwide, and takes place during the annual three-day extravaganza for perfume bottle lovers annual International Perfume Bottles Association convention with the field’s leading dealers featuring thousands of bottles and an internationally recognized auction.
The convention draws together collectors and dealers from around the world, and this year features 250 lots to tempt prospective bidders. Simply put, each item is fabulous and lust-worthy, so it’s hard to pick a favourite, but some of our choices to watch (or bid on, should the fancy take you!) are as follows:
This elaborate French 1820s Charles X Palais Royal perfume carousel made of gilt bronze mounted on an abalone shell with Baccarat cut crystal bottles is estimated to sell between $10,000 and $20,000.
Perfume bottle made by Baccarat in 1926. Made for perfumer Godet for the “Petite Fleur Bleue” fragrance. The crystal bottle is in the shape of a woman’s skirt, while the frost stopper with grey patina perfectly depicts a woman holding flowers. Estimated to sell between $5,000 and $6,000.
Perfume bottle “Gros Fruits” designed by Rene Lalique in 1919 and was available for purchase at Maison Lalique. The detail of plums on the bottle is molded in high relief and colored by grey patina. Estimated to sell between $10,000 to $15,000.
1920s Czechoslovakian “nude dauber” perfume bottle by Heinrich Hoffmann. The bottle is mounted on gilt metal
and decorated with faux jade crystal. The bottle is topped with a frosted
glass medusa medallion. Estimated to sell btw. $5,000-$7,000
UK based collectors and anyone enthralled by the world of fragrance bottle art will be glad to know here is also a UK branch of the organisation, and you can find out more about their activities at ipba-uk.co.uk
Ken Leach is currently accepting consignments for the 2017 auction to be held in Princeton, New Jersey.
Contact: [email protected]
Written by Suzy Nightingale
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