Yesterday I attended a meeting of perfume bottle collectors.
Among vintage perfume collectors, these people are sometimes called “The Enemy.” They buy for the bottle, not the juice. And (the horror!) I’ve heard that some bottle sellers pour the perfume in them down the drain.
Incidentally, displaying fragrance in clear bottles is not advised. The perfume in them cooks in bright light, resulting in that nail polish remover top note vintage buyers know too well. So the beautiful bottles presented by Lalique yesterday — all clear glass — wouldn’t benefit any perfume that might be inside them. Not that you’re going to put your limited edition signed-and-numbered Lalique flacon inside a dark cabinet. Are you?
I wish I could display my collection on a dresser top or shelf. Many of the bottles are beautiful. But for me, display is limited to the opaque ones, because it’s the contents I care most about. You can’t wear a bottle. The bottle is something you own, but it doesn’t become part of you like perfume does.
There are some bottles that are swoonworthy, though. One is pictured above.
Elsa Schiaparelli was the grand doyenne of the perfume bottle as surrealist art. She collaborated with Salvador Dali on a number of perfume bottle projects. The most well-known one is the “Le Roi Soleil” bottle, crafted by Baccarat, which was released in 1946 to celebrate the end of World War II. Dali drew the sun’s “face” as a series of birds in flight, across a rising sun, over an enamel-blue molded glass sea. (I haven’t been able to find any description of what the perfume inside smelled like — this alone is interesting, as such information is readily available on the ‘net nowadays — but most of Schaiparelli’s fragrances were of the take-no-prisoners type.) So, in this case, the bottle, er, eclipsed the perfume inside it.
Even as a young girl I hoped to someday have a vanity, on which there would be a mirrored tray, full of fine perfumes in their beautiful bottles. The bottles atop my cabinet now — Agent Provacateur comes to mind, in its pink ceramic egg crowned by a plain metal spray nozzle — aren’t the most appealing ones. Those are stashed safely in the dark interior.
For me, it was odd to walk into a room like the one yesterday and not smell a bit of perfume. No one was wearing any. That included me. I didn’t want to offend. So, as I passed through the very upscale department store in which the meeting was held, I sprayed samples of Kurkdijan and Ford and Creed onto cards, not onto my skin as I usually would.
I guess these people love the bottles a beautiful objects, as art, so I ask: these art aficionados, these collectors, are they more in step with the concept of perfume as art than are those who (so I’ve heard) have been known to decant the perfume for wearing, and put the bottle up for sale to them?
The Dali bottle in perfect condition, not that you’re interested in such things, is currently priced at around $25,000, if you can find one. I saw one on a popular auction site that was in very bad condition (chips, broken rays, faded, no box) for just under $4000.