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Much like how perfumes have been around for more than 3,000 years — and are rumored to have arisen in ancient Egypt — perfume bottles themselves also have an incredibly fascinating history. However, it took the introduction of the more modern perfume bottle to actually help fuel the demand and trade for this highly sought-after commodity.
Before the invention of glass perfume bottles with stoppers, perfumes were limited to being stored in fairly ornate, opaque “glass alabastrons,” or even vessels made out of faience (a type of quartz-like ceramic material) and metals (like silver).
Once these blown-glass bottles emerged in Europe in the 14th century, they completely transformed the perfume industry.
Because of this innovation, the sale and transport of quality perfumes surged in popularity, especially as more and more artisans began to design and perfect their own perfume bottles. By the 19th century, perfume bottle-makers became more creative with their artistry by considering the use of floral designs and other fanciful shapes.
Today, most cosmetic companies (like Avon and Max Factor) tend to offer perfumes that are packaged in low-quality glass bottles, despite not always being this way. Even though older perfume bottles are generally more unique and sought-after, some companies are still trying to offer vintage-style perfume bottles that are worth collecting.
There are plenty of reasons why some people love to collect vintage-style perfume bottles. For instance, the feel, distinctive look, and features of vintage perfume bottles can serve as a refreshing experience for perfumistas and fragrance enthusiasts. They can remind all sorts of familiar places and events.
That’s why some vintage perfume bottles today are considered to be highly coveted collectibles, especially by older generations. Having said that, you don’t have to be mature or well-off in order to enjoy the fascinating experience of collecting unique or rare vintage perfume bottles.
Knowing the Different Styles of Vintage Perfume Bottles
Although collecting vintage perfume bottles mainly boils down to personal taste, it’s very important that you have to be familiar with the different styles of vintage perfume bottles. Understanding each style is a great way for you to start with your collection.
Some styles tend to put more emphasis on design rather than on function. Vintage perfume bottles are typically categorized into three different styles, namely:
- Art Nouveau
- Art Deco
Let’s go ahead and break them down further.
Atomizers have been around since the late 19th century, and they were actually first used for medical practice rather than for storing scents. Unlike traditional perfume bottles, atomizers eject a fine mist, making them ideal for people that only want to apply perfume in small amounts.
Atomizers are generally used for strong fragrances since they can only spray a small amount of the perfume. Most perfume atomizers that you see today tend to have a more laid-back and minimal design.
However, there are still shops and bottle-makers that offer vintage-style perfume atomizers. They usually come with a squeeze bulb that can quickly store air over the feeder tube when squeezed. Some atomizers also come with a lock to secure the spray of the bottle to avoid accidentally spritzing.
Art Nouveau vintage bottles are often praised because of their unique and very attractive designs. They usually feature floral, organic shapes, and other naturalistic elements. Although they come in a variety of sizes, most art nouveau-inspired bottles that are available today come in small sizes.
Most collectors would agree that the Art Nouveau period is the greatest period of perfume bottle making. The Art Nouveau style is famous for introducing plique-a-jour enameling (French for “letting in the daylight”) and silver overlays to bottle making. That said, since most Art Nouveau-inspired bottles tend to value design over function, they’re typically used more as a decoration or display.
Compare to Art Nouveau, Art Deco perfume bottles tend to focus more on architectural elements. Common designs from this period often included sharp, geometric angles like hexagons, zigzags, prisms. Moreover, the designs are much simpler and more modern.
Although bottles from this period were still made primarily of glass or crystal, some designs also came in with a metal lid or other metal materials as well. Even today, popular perfumes like the Chanel No. 5 and Shalimar are still heavily influenced by the Art Deco period.
Although rare Art Deco Bottles tend to be more accessible than other vintage bottles, it’s still easy for new collectors to fall for online scams and fake products especially online. Because of this, it’s especially important to always do your research before making a purchase.
Side Note: In addition to vintage perfume bottles, there’s also another type of perfume bottle you can collect, called antique perfume bottles. However, they’re generally harder to find, since they’re older and more anonymous.
The Key Differences between Vintage style and Modern Perfume Bottles
In addition to collecting vintage perfume bottles, you can also collect modern perfume bottles, as well. Unlike vintage perfume bottles, though, the designs found on modern perfume bottles are often taken more lightly. Moreover, perfume bottles are typically manufactured, whereas high-quality vintage bottles tend to be handmade.
However, there are still perfume shops and luxury perfume houses that offer unique and stylish bottles that are inspired by previous eras. To know more, here are some of the basic differences between the two:
- Vintage perfume bottles tend to look more personalized and unique, whereas modern perfume bottles tend to be heavily branded
- Vintage perfume bottles offer a lot more varieties and exclusive designs, whereas modern perfume bottles tend to be more formulaic and generic.
- Modern perfume bottles are often overlooked by big companies, whereas vintage perfume bottles are designed and made to look good
- Vintage perfume bottles are often made out of glass, crystal, and metal, whereas modern perfume bottles are typically made out of plastic, glass, or acrylic.
Useful Tips to Know When Buying Vintage Style Perfume Bottles
If you already have quite the knowledge when it comes to vintage bottles, then you might already know your way through this delicate and fun hobby. However, there are always new things you could learn from other perfume lovers and enthusiasts.
With that in mind, there are a few things to keep in mind when buying vintage perfume bottles, such as:
- How you plan to display them
- What the quality of the bottle is
- If the perfume has been reformulated
- Start out conservatively
Let’s go ahead and break down these considerations.
Storage and Display
There are a lot of different ways you can display your vintage perfume bottle collection. If you’re only starting out collecting, and it’s still fairly modestly sized, then your guest bathroom or dresser would be the perfect place to show your collection.
For example, you can group your bottles on an Italian gilt tray and put them on a countertop or bedside table for a lovely display. Another great idea you could do is to buy some shallow wall shelves to display your collection. Also, make sure to place them in a well-lit place so that your guests can enjoy the beauty of your collection. Having said that, if some of your collection contains fragrances, store them in a dark and dry place to preserve the scent.
You can also utilize other things to organize and display your collection. Bookshelves, for example, can be a fantastic (and affordable!) option. The only limit is your creativity!
Consider the Quality
You should always strive to be conscious of the things you buy. This becomes extremely important if you want to treat vintage-style bottles as more than decorative pieces, like as an investment, or if you actually plan on using them to store your perfumes.
If you want to use your collection to store your favorite fragrances, make sure that the spray mechanism or applicator of the bottle works properly. If possible, you should also check reviews and short blogs about the product you’re buying.
If you want to look for rarer and more unique vintage bottles, you have to be more careful and thorough about your purchase. Look closely for any details or damages that would suggest the bottle’s condition. This also applies to commercial bottles. If a vintage commercial bottle has its original label and packaging intact, chances are, it’s going to be more valuable and definitely worth collecting.
If you’re trying to find a particular vintage perfume bottle, you have to remember when it was made. Keep this in made if you’re trying to find a particular fragrance you used to love in the past.
Since perfume ingredients and regulations can often significantly affect the making of perfumes, the fragrance that you’re considering may not smell exactly the same as the one you remembered. This can make it even more challenging to find it online or in antique stores.
Unfortunately, reformulations are not often shared with the public, so it’s really hard to determine whether a fragrance has been reformulated or not. Having said that, a common way you can do to deal with reformulations is to compare packaging and bottle changes, since they often give clues if a reformulation has been made.
Start with Only A Few Bottles
Like with any other collecting hobby, it’s important that you should focus on trying the experience first. After all, it wouldn’t be a great idea to splurge and spend most of your extra money on something you’re barely familiar with.
Instead, treat it as an investment. But obviously, this doesn’t apply if you’re already a natural perfume lover. Still, there’s no reason to go on a huge shopping spree if you’re not already certain this is an investment you want to make.
It’s a good idea to start by buying only a few bottles. That way, you can gauge what kind of vintage styles you prefer. Work your way through understanding all the different styles or designs that are available. And as you try to collect more unique and rare bottles, be aware that it can be a very overwhelming yet exciting experience.
Our Top Recommendations
If you’re truly fond of exploring antique shops, garage sales, and other similar places, then you will probably have a great chance of finding something you like. Having said that, it’s quite common for new collectors to be clueless when it comes to buying their first vintage perfume bottle.
So, to help you get started on your hunt for the best vintage perfume bottles, we came up with a list of vintage perfume bottles that you should consider buying down below.
What Was Our Evaluation Criteria?
Even though collecting hobbies mainly requires you to buy what you like, there are still a few factors that you need to consider when you’re buying vintage perfume bottles. To put it briefly, you have to be considerate every time you see something you like, both online or in person.
In order to help you shop and build your own lovely collection of vintage perfume bottles, here are some of the important questions we considered when we were making our recommendations.
- Are there any common complaints about this product?
- Would the style or design work for almost everybody?
- Is the vintage perfume bottle actually attractive or well-designed?
- Is the bottle well made? (I.e., is it sturdy?)
- What was the price of the bottle? (We understand that some will be more expensive than others, but we wanted to make them fairly accessible to the average buyer.)
Whether you’re new to the hobby or somewhat of an expert already when it comes to collecting vintage perfume bottles, you’re always bound to find something that you’ll love to add to your collection. To make our list of recommendations interesting, we mainly considered their price, applicator, and — most importantly! — their design.
3ml Crystal Vintage Style Perfume Bottle
This crystal perfume bottle would be the perfect gift for a younger woman, especially for one who is really interested in collecting vintage-style perfume bottles. While it may not have a decent capacity to house perfumes, it has a unique and stylish design.
This allows it to easily blend in with your dresser or other bottles. If you’re looking to spend only a little bit of money on your 1st vintage style bottle, you should definitely consider this bottle.
- Durable and well-made
- Has a stylish design
- A great, simple gift for younger women
- Very affordable
- A little heavy, considering its size
- Has a very small capacity
YangLand 80ml Clear Crystal Perfume Bottle
If you’re searching for a vintage crystal bottle that can easily hold a lot of your favorite fragrance, consider this atomizer with a golden tassel. Although it’s quite heavy and not meant as an everyday carry, it would still be a great addition to your dresser.
Sadly, much like the other pump-style atomizer on our list, this one also has a weak spray. The soft gold tones in the neck, though, combined with the carved-crystal style, make it a very lovely addition to any dresser.
- Has a well-made glass
- Elegant bottle design
- Ideal for strong perfumes
- Very affordable option
- Questionable pump quality
- Doesn’t spray as much as you would want
- Tassels aren’t very secure
Malachite Ultra Rare Antique Czech Perfume Bottle
This adorable vintage perfume bottle is made of vintage malachite glass. It would be a perfect piece next to your other miniature vintage bottles. It has a very beautiful floral design over its center and it also has a well-detailed brass lid. This bottle truly proves that perfume bottles are works of art.
- Seller also offers custom and personalized orders
- Unique floral design
- Well-detailed cover
- Doesn’t have an applicator or spray
- Very fragile
- Extremely rare and hard to find
- Somewhat more costly
40ml Vintage Copper Atomizer
If you’re looking to add more diversity to your collection, consider this copper atomizer from Etsy. It’s beautifully handmade and it comes in a fairly decent size. Also, you can choose from a variety of different fragrances that can go with the bottle.
And not only does it have a stunningly beautiful design, but it can also double as a great EDC (eau de cologne) bottle. Although it’s slightly more expensive than the other items on our list, it’s definitely worth buying.
- Beautiful craftmanship
- Affordable scents
- Amazing customer service
- Very unique design
- The metal design is not for everybody
- Heavier than other similar bottles
- Somewhat expensive
YU FENG Heart Shape Enameled Perfume Bottle
Even though it’s small and only has a capacity of 5ml, the build quality of this uniquely designed bottle is great. It has an attractive fauna design, with the cute dragonfly on the side, and a beautiful metal overlay.
The cap of this bottle is also well made and tightly secured, so you’ll definitely be glad to know your fragrance won’t be wasted when you put it into this bottle. While it may not be the most convenient bottle to use, it can certainly fit in any purse or small bag.
- Very compact
- Surprisingly sturdy
- Perfect for short trips
- Doesn’t come with any funnel
- It’s only ideal for strong perfumes
- Smaller than expected
H&D Crystal Art Deco Vintage Style Perfume Bottle
Although it has a stick applicator instead of a spray, it can function well as one of your perfumes’ bottles. Apart from housing your favorite perfumes, this bottle can also work well as a decoration on your desk, bathroom, or dressers.
- The glass material makes it look premium
- Has a beautiful and smooth finish
- Great stick applicator
- Perfume sprayers tend to be more convenient
- Slightly more expensive than other 10 ml bottles
Vintage Crystal Perfume Bottles with Floral and Butterfly Pattern
Although it’s not an atomizer like most items from our list, this beautiful, decorative glass bottle will definitely win your attention! It has a fancy butterfly lid, a gorgeous floral design, and an elegant green enamel exterior. While it may not work very well as a true perfume bottle, it’s still a great décor bottle that won’t feel out of place from your collection. Also, it can be a great gift idea for women, especially for mothers or granddaughters.
- Works best as an elegant décor
- Has a very creative and eye-catching design
- A great, elegant gift for women
- Not really meant to store perfume
- Doesn’t come with its own funnel
Beautyflier 3.4 Vintage Style Clear Glass Refillable Perfume Bottle
Whether you’re looking to try a vintage-style atomizer, or you want to add a cute piece for your dresser, you should definitely check out this vintage bottle. It’s perfect for light sprays and fairly durable at such a low price point.
It has a very pinkish and cute design, making it a great addition to your dresser or vintage perfume bottle collection. Compare to other similar atomizers, the Beautyflier doesn’t look and feel like a cheap bottle.
- Great for fine misting
- Surprisingly adorable and fashionable
- Well-designed and quite sturdy
- Great price and very cute
- The spray mechanism is not very strong
- Requires to be stored horizontally
Our Final Thoughts: Choosing the Best Vintage Perfume Bottles (That You’ll Fall in Love With!)
There’s a lot of vintage perfume bottles out there that are worth collecting, and even more duds that you should try to avoid. Some of these winners are well-hidden in flea markets and old perfume shops, just waiting for you to stumble upon them.
There are also rare, and more unique bottles that are auctioned or available online. However, you need to have a reasonable understanding of vintage perfume bottles in order for you to have a simple overview of the things you need to look out for when buying vintage perfume bottles.
Having said that, if we had to pick only one vintage perfume bottle from our list, we would recommend the 40ml vintage copper atomizer from IncensePerfume. Whether it’s your first time collecting, or you already have a considerable number of vintage bottles, this beautiful atomizer would be a great addition to your collection.
And besides, you also have the option of pairing it with a fragrance at such a low price. You truly can’t go wrong with such a lovely decorative piece. We’re fully aware that the experience of collecting vintage perfume bottles is quite overwhelming at first. Still, we hope that our guide can help you understand everything you need to know about vintage perfume bottles.
But like with any other collection you may have, the main rule is very simple. Always remember to choose the best vintage perfume bottles that would love to have for your collection, and you seriously can’t go wrong!
Question: Where can I Find Vintage Perfume Bottles to Buy?
Answer: You can find vintage perfumes from all sorts of different places. if you’re fond of going to antique shops or malls, chances are you might score a decent vintage perfume from one of your favorite brick-and-mortar shops.
Vintage perfumes can also be found at estate sales. Having said that, you can also check out some particular places online for swapping or trading.
Amazon is probably the most popular place for finding vintage-style perfume bottles. While you may find some great deals from Amazon, you should also try your luck with other websites as well, such as Craigslist and Etsy.
If you’re more interested in rare finds, there are also occasional auctions (like eBay) that you can find online. However, as we have already mentioned before, it would be a more stress-free and safer experience buying vintage perfumes in person.
Question: How can I Determine if a Vintage Perfume Bottle is Real or Fake?
Answer: Compare to fake commercial perfumes, fake vintage perfumes are even harder to spot. Since vintage perfumes generally undergo a change in color and scent, it’s hard to tell if a bottle itself is actually real or just a really convincing fake.
That’s why you should always be mindful of scammers and fake vintage perfume bottles, especially on different websites like eBay and Craigslist. Online scams are sadly still very frequent these days.
So, if it’s possible, you should always buy your vintage bottles in person. That way, you’ll have an easier time inspecting if the perfume bottle is real or not.
Question: How can I Date a Vintage Perfume Bottle?
Answer: There are a number of ways to determine your vintage perfume’s age. You can start by looking at the bottle itself. From patent numbers to stampings, you’ll probably end up with something that can help you identify the perfume’s origin.
You might also find a particular label at the base of the perfume that could indicate the perfume’s name and date. Moreover, look for any acid stamps or any particular features that could tell you how old the perfume is.
Question: Can I Earn a Profit from Selling my Vintage Bottles?
Answer: Selling your vintage perfume bottles can be a very profitable business, especially if you already have an attractive collection of bottles at home to work with. However, most serious collectors are interested in buying extremely rare perfume bottles.
Also, since fake products are common for popular perfumes such as Chanel, buyers tend to be extra cautious when it comes to buying online. Having said that, if you’re truly ready to say goodbye to a few bottles from your vintage collection, start by knowing the value and rarity of your bottles.
If you want to know more about selling vintage perfume bottles, here are some great tips that you might want to consider.
Question: Is there a Proper Way to Clean Vintage Perfume Bottles?
Answer: If you’re thinking of simply soaking a bottle, you may have to reconsider your plan, as it can be somewhat dangerous. If you’re not gentle enough, you might crack or even break the bottle. Also, scrubbing the inside will unlikely remove all of the perfume’s scents.
The point is, you have to be extremely careful when it comes to cleaning vintage perfume bottles. And yes, there are a few proper ways to do it.
Assuming you already poured out the perfume’s contents, the next step you should take is:
• Fill the bottle with a warm cup of water mixed in with white vinegar.
• Shake the bottle for 20-30 seconds and allow it to sit for at least an hour.
• Next, use a mild dish soap to remove any excess oil and gunk from the bottle.
• After an hour, empty the bottle again and fill it with warm water.
• And then finally, let the bottle dry.
Helpful Hint: Want to know more? Check out these useful tips on how to clean old bottles.