Antiques Column with Michael Dowse
During a weekend break in London, my wife located an exclusive perfume shop where chosen scents could be mixed before your eyes. The hourly rate for mixing must have been hundreds of pounds as the bottled results were eye-wateringly expensive, although samples were free.
I managed to persuade my wife into a sizeable collection of samples with the promise of a return visit.
The perfume bottles were delightful and reminded me of designer Lalique.
Rene Lalique, 1860-1945, began his career designing jewellery. He began working with glass in the 1890s and opened his first glass shop in Paris in 1905. His work caught the eye of perfumer Franҫois Coty who invited Lalique into a partnership, initially labels for his perfumes and later the glass bottles. Their partnership revolutionised the perfume industry; it was the first time perfumes were packaged in distinctive bottles evocative of the fragrance within and was a huge success.
By the 1920s, Lalique had three factories and produced exquisite bottles for more than 60 fashionable and desirable perfumers.
The bottles in highest demand now are the more unusual or abstract with inventive designs and forms. Most bottles had modern and stylized designs following the Art Deco style. Early examples feature more flowing lines, floral designs and figural etching. Some bottles were formed in bold shapes with oversized decorative stoppers.
Bottles sealed with their original contents remaining, or bottles with their original outer packaging still intact are considerably more valuable and thus more popular among collectors.
Bottles made or designed after 1945 will not feature the initial “R” in their mark, as this was never used after Lalique’s death, although the “R” is often added to later pieces to make them appear earlier and thus more desirable.