In this guide I will introduce you to the world of the silver overlay/deposit perfume bottles and the different types available.
Most people use the terms interchangeably, but "overlay" is usually always ‘thick’ whereas ‘deposit’ is usually always ‘thin’.Oscar Pierre Erard of Birmingham, England developed an effective method of electroplating silver on glass and porcelain in 1889. A few years later in 1893, John H. Scharling, an American patented an improved method. By 1895, Americans, the Czechs, Italians, French, English and Austrians were producing exciting glassware with sterling deposit and overlay.
The first type I want to discuss is the late Victorian era bottles. These delicate perfume bottles with sterling silver overlay in Art Nouveau or roccoco designs on glass date from about 1890 to the 1920s. Almost all are American in origin although a scarce few are English. The glass bottles mainly come in clear, and very rarely do you find them in cobalt, cranberry or green. These colored bottles always command higher prices.
Two American companies, Gorham & Alvin, dominated the scene and created some of the most exquisite examples available using thick overlays of sterling silver. They both used glass blanks from the Steuben glassworks. Another honorable mention is the La Pierre company, I have seen some of their bottles, though not as highly detailed as Gorham or Alvin, but nonetheless, beautiful bottles. These higher end bottles usually have an area where a monogram could be engraved, often you will find bottles with owners name or initials in fancy flourishing script. I find this adds a lot of charm to the bottles.
Lower priced examples are made by unknown manufacturers and simply have the silver overlay "painted on". This type often has silver loss on the glass.
I have seen numerous bottles that have cracks in the glass, I suspect this is a common occurence with bottles which have thicker overlay.
In many cases the bottles will show some sort of cracking or damage to the glass. It is rare to find a bottle without any sort of damage and this should be reflected in the price.
Another type of silver overlay bottle is the miniature Mexican silver scent bottles. These small bottles have an almost abstract or floral overlay decorations over clear glass and date from the 1930s onward. They may have been souvenirs or made for the tourist trade. Look for markings for Mexican silversmiths and the fineness stamps.
The third type are the small vials from France. These little bottles are made up of black (amethyst) glass and almost always have a pattern of tiny diamond & daisy shapes made of silver covering the bottle. The base of the tiny bottle is embossed Made in France. The silver filigree screw cap usually has a long dauber and a semi precious stone such as turquoise on the end of the cap. These stand about 1 1/4" tall and sometimes come with a small silver funnel.
The fourth type of silver overlay perfume is the superb examples from Germany. These bottles were made of glazed porcelain that resembled glass and has silver crown shaped sprinkler tops. I have seen these in turquoise blue and a pale pink color and stand approximately 2 1/4" tall. The porcelain was then covered with a thick overlay of 999/1000 fine silver, higher and purer than sterling. The Rosenthal company manufactured these in the 1920s.
All bottles will take a beautiful gleam when polished. I recommend Maas or Wrights Silver Cream and a soft cloth.
Feel free to email me for details or any questions. I also have a perfume identification and appraisal service here on ebay, click on my Me page for details. Please see my site at www .freewebs. com/cleopatrasboudoir
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