In this guide, I will introduce you into the elegant world of antique Victorian double ended scent bottles.
These bottles were meant to hold perfume at one end, smelling salts or a vinaigrette at the other. The bottles were made by welding two separate bottles together, then giving the finished bottle polishing and cutting either in simple panels or elaborate designs. Very rarely will you find a hidden compartment in the middle of the bottles, this hinged compartment would have held a vinaigrette. The bottles first appeared in the late 1700s, but it wasn’t until the 1850s that they were in general use. Their popularity waned around 1875 but continued to be manufactured until the turn of the century.
Look closer at one of the clear bottles, it has a hinged middle compartment for vinaigrette.
The majority of bottles were made of clear glass, but deep ruby red, emerald green, and rich cobalt blue can also be found. The more scarce colors of the bottles can be found in glorious purple, vivid apple green, striking Vaseline, and jewel like amber glass. The rarest of all is opaline glass. A true gem is a bottle with one end one color and the other end a different color. Expect to pay a premium for any bottle found in the rare glass colors.
Bottles are generally in a long cylindrical shape, but novelty shapes do exist in rare numbers, some are in the form of cannons, barrels, opera glasses, etc. Sizes for bottles range from 6” long down to a diminutive 1 ¼” long.
The bottles were topped by either ornate, filigreed, repousse, jeweled, enameled or plain hinged flip top or screw caps made of gilt brass, sterling silver, richly gilded sterling silver, gold or other metal alloys. Sometime you will find a carrying chain and ring on the caps for suspending on chatelaines or the finger. The bottles either have screw caps at one end for perfumes, with a little cork or glass stopper to keep the contents from spilling. Some of these stoppers are ingeniously built right into the stopper itself, so a quick snap and the bottle is sealed.
Ruby bottle showing vinaigrette grill on one end
Many bottles were made in England, but some were also made in America and Bohemia. English bottles with sterling caps will have hallmarks, so be sure to look around the collars and underneath the caps for ay markings. One of England’s finest silversmiths, Sampson Mordan & Co is one of the most sought after makers of these perfume bottles, so look under the cap for his marks. His pieces always garner high prices.
Condition plays a part in a bottles value. Since glass is a fragile material, nicks and fleabites can be expected. Larger chips or cracks should be reflected in the selling price. Dents in the caps can sometimes be pushed out by a jeweler, or by you. Sometimes the smelling salts end will have a cloudy appearance due to the ammonia that was in the smelling salts etching the inside of the bottle. This can be hard to remove, but I have had some luck with a product called "lime away".
Bottle in amber glass
Values for bottles in very good condition, with no major flaws usually bring about $125-$350 on eBay. Bottles in rare glass colors, elaborate caps with jewels or enameling will bring more. With all the examples floating around, why not start a collection of double-ended scent bottles today?
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 info. Please see my site at www .freewebs. com/cleopatrasboudoir
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Note: all photographs on this guide are from the following ebay sellers:
Some photos were also provided by the following website:
- Trio London
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