Some tips on dating vintage commercial perfume bottles:
Do you have a vintage perfume and need help in figuring out how old it may be? Simply knowing when your perfume first came out can be a huge help. I have written over 200 guides on perfume companies and their perfumes and noting launch dates for perfumes. Please remember that some perfumes were made for many years after their launch dates, on the other hand, some perfumes were only sold for a very short time.
- The presence of clear labels indicating contents were first used around the 1950s. These are either on the front, back or base of your bottle.
- By 1970, cosmetic companies were stamping colored numbers on the bottom of their products. This stamping usually consisted of four numbers and was visible on the bottom of each item. Older bottles from the 1930s-40s would have lot numbers or patent numbers embossed right into the glass base.
- A Zip Code on a label denotes age meaning this bottle is from 1962 or later. Before 1937, no zip codes were used. From 1937 to 1962, two code numbers were used on mail and labels. In 1962, all zip codes were required by the US Postal Service.
- If your bottle has a label which states: "returning this bottle to the perfumer is a national duty"...then your bottle dates from 1940-1945 during WWII.
- Bottles embossed with or having labels marked "Made in Occupied Japan" were made from September 1945 until April 1952.
- Bakelite screw caps were in usage from 1930s-1950s.Some perfume bottles as the ones for Lanvin often continued using black Bakelite screwcaps into the 1960s. If you rub the cap with your finger briskly or hold it under hot running water (remove cap from bottle first!) for about 20-30 seconds, then smell it, if it has a formaldehyde odor, it is bakelite.
- Lucite caps were used from the late 1930s-onward. The older lucite caps become yellowed or discolored from perfume.
- Another feature was the use of plastic caps placed over the base of a ground glass stopper. The finest plastic caps began to be used by 1979 when the glass factory of Saint Gobain Desjonqueres introduced the first plastic covered dowel stoppers.
- Glass stoppers that had dowels that went into corks were in use from 1870s-1920.
- Goldtone plastic screw caps were in use after the 1940s.
- Goldtone metal screwcaps were in use from 1930s onward.
- Enameled lettering ( instead of labels) on glass bottles started being used after the 1930s and was pretty regular feature in the 1940s onward. This lettering is fragile and can be lost with too much cleaning.
- If your label states that the perfume was "created/compounded/assembled" in France or USA, it dates to after the 1940s and most likely dates to the 1950s.
- If your box or label has a number with a degree symbol, this notes the perfume or cologne's alcohol percentage. Two common percentages are 80% and 90% for eau de toilette and cologne. This helps date the bottle to after the 1950s.
- Look for a patent number on the base of the bottle, these patent dates were frequent in the 1930s and 1940s, you can look up the number on search engines on US patent webpages online. Also, English Registry Design numbers can also be found on perfume bottles from the United Kingdom, you can search the numbers online also.
- Old glass bottles might have etched matching numbers on the base of the perfume bottle and on the bottom of the stopper. This was done at the factory when the stopper would have been ground to fit the bottle, the numbers are to show which bottle goes with the right stopper. These were usually found on French bottles.
- If your bottle is marked Gaillard, J. Viard or J. Villard, it was made during 1900-1920s. Lucien Gaillard was a contemporary of Lalique and designed many Art Nouveau perfume bottles for notable French perfume houses such as Clamy and Violet. Julien Viard was a French glass designer of the 1920s and designed bottles for Richard Hudnut,Isabey, Favolys and Langlois. Both Gaillard & Viard collaborated and you might find the mark of J. Villard on some bottles.
- Older bottles stamped their name and origin somewhere on the bottle. In the 1940s, stickers replaced the stamping but were soon lost or destroyed, making it difficult to authenticate.
- If your bottle has an embossed entwined HP mark on the base of the bottle, it was made by the glass factory of Pochet et du Courval in France after 1930.
- At the beginning of the 20th century, revenue stamps appeared on the imported scents coming into America.This stamped container is very collectible, because of the information on that stamp.
- Always look at all sides of a bottle. Some labels can be read from both sides, looking thru the back of the bottle. You might encounter labels which have the date stamped on the back of the labels. Sample bottles from the 1950s onward, often had labels that would say "sample, not to be sold". Today's bottles read "tester". Factice, or display bottles, were not meant for resale, and will have labels such as: "dummy, not for sale". Sometimes a date is also stamped on the backside of the label, I have seen this with old Chanel & Lanvin bottles. Chanel bottles from the 1960s onward should have the backs of their labels marked with a copyright symbol and CC.
- If your bottle is marked S or SGD on the base, it was manufactured by the Saint Gobain Desjonqueres glass factory of France after the 1950s, when the factory was rebuilt after WWII and equipped with modern fully-automatic machinery.
- Old labels turn brown naturally, however, water and perfume can cause stains on labels over the years
- Cellophane packaging was developed in 1908 by a Swiss textile engineer, Jacques Brandenberger, and in 1917 assigned his patents to La Cellophane Societe Anonyme and joined that organization. On December 26, 1923, an agreement was executed between Du Pont Cellophane Company and La Cellophane by which La Cellophane licensed Du Pont Cellophane Company exclusively under its United States cellophane patents. It was originally used to wrap luxury items, but was expensive and not moisture proof. Finding early perfumes with cellophane packaging is very rare. It wasnt until the late 1940s that cellophane started to become a regular feature on perfume box packaging.
- Look on the base of your bottle for acid stamps for Baccarat, Lalique, Cristal Nancy or Cristal Romesnil, these markings add value to your bottle. Cristal Nancy closed their doors in 1934. Only from 1936, Baccarat bottles were systematically engraved with a mark. Prior to this, they were acid etched, stamped and some had round paper labels, while many have no distinguishing marks.
- Lalique perfumes were marked with a signature on the bases. The signature has changed over the years and you can date a bottle by the style of the signature. Older bottles are marked R. Lalique in block lettering.You can look up various websites or books on Lalique to find signatures and the dates they were used.
- Older perfume will start to darken and the oldest perfumes have a syrupy texture.
- If your label or box has the perfume company's address, you might be able to date the bottle by comparing the addresses for the company if a company has had more than one address.
- If your bottle has a VB , or BR mark on the base, it was made by Verreries Brosse of France after the 1920s when the factory installed semi-automatic bottle making machines. In 1963, Brosse switched from making hand ground stoppers to precision machine grinding. In 1976, Brosse patented two new stopper innovations,the first is a ring made of polypropylene with horizontal joints placed on the stopper dowel.The second is a polypropylene coating of the stopper dowel designed with internal friction teeth.
- Sealed perfumes which look to have some perfume missing, have had their contents evaporated, this is caused by heat, and poor storage as well as aging.
- Check out vintage advertisements for perfumes in old magazines. They will usually have a date on them and you can use these to compare your bottle to whats shown in the ad.
- Older perfumes have onion skin paper seals or thin celluloid seals in either red, blue or other colors.
- The styles of the boxes or labels can also help determine age. Art Nouveau is generally 1900-1920s, Art Deco mid 1920s and some styles carried into the 1940s, psychedelic late 1960s-early 1970s. Please note that this isnt always foolproof.
Some perfume boxes or labels might have a warning label such as: "Warning--Use only as directed. Intentional misuse by deliberately concentrating and inhaling the contents can be harmful or fatal". This warning was approved by the FDA starting in 1975.
- Any cosmetic, perfume or lotion labeled "hypoallergenic" dates to after 1975, when the FDA allowed companies to mark their products in this manner.
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