Antiques Column: Everything has its time and place

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As a child I was surrounded by sisters and as a man I was surrounded by mostly daughters. There is little wonder therefore that I have grown accustomed to the smell of perfume.

It’s not that I don’t love the smell of perfume, I do, but I also love the wonderful aroma of a freshly lit pipe, or roast beef cooking on a Sunday morning or the mixture of old leather and petrol in a vintage car.

Liquid perfume dates from around the mid 17th century

I appreciate that everything has its time and place and if my wife was dressed for a glamorous evening and smelt of roast beef it somehow wouldn’t be the same. More than any of these smells however the thing I really love is the bottle that holds them.

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 they reached their 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.

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.