Antiques: Bottles had perfume in one end and smelling salts in the other

Glass scent bottleGlass scent bottle
Glass scent bottle
As the years go by, we seem to have more and more Christmas presents to buy, so we seem to start shopping earlier and earlier.

Needless to say therefore, we have started. Now I’m not really keen on shopping, in fact I think it’s fair to say I dislike it and shopping for Christmas presents is no exception.

The initial part of the exercise is fortunately nothing to do with me. This involves ringing all the parents and discussing at length what is flavour of the month for each grandchild. Next is an Internet search and finally a discussion. I am involved, but as with most discussions, I am more of a sounding board than a participant.

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Preliminaries successfully negotiated, now my involvement begins in earnest. Dust off the wallet and shop. This year I tried something a little different. If we could buy all the girls the same present, I suggested, that would be five in one go. I suggested perfume. However, much like the parable of the seeds, my idea fell on stony ground and did not germinate, but it gave me an idea for an article.

Liquid perfume dates from around the mid 17th century, but few glass perfume bottles actually exist from that time. Glass was considered unworthy to hold the very expensive perfumes, so precious metals and hardstones were used instead. Perfume bottles produced from glass were not seen in large quantities until the end of the 18th century and reached peak in popularity and production in the Victorian period.

A particular favourite of this period was the double ended scent bottle. These held perfume in one end and smelling salts or vinaigrette in the other. They were often made with coloured, faceted glass with silver, silver gilt or brass caps.

Although the glass bottles were mass produced, they were made in a variety of styles and prices. The more expensive ones were set with coral or turquoise and had silver cagework overlays.

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Cameo glass scent bottles were also popular. These bottles consist of two layers of glass, the outer layer is cut away to reveal the coloured glass underneath. They were produced in various forms including animal heads, swans, eagles, owls and even crocodiles. Thomas Webb and Sons were important producers of these cameo bottles.

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