In this guide I will be discussing the various types of vintage DeVilbiss perfumers & atomizers that are available to collectors and dealers.
The DeVilbiss Corporation made a less than glamourous entry into the perfume bottle world when they started manufacturing spray nozzles for throat atomizers. In 1888, Dr. Allen DeVilbiss, an ear, nose & throat specialist, had developed an easier and more sanitary way to apply medicated oil into his patient's throats. This invention proved to be such a success that the physician was able to patent the atomizer and retire from his profession and established the DeVilbiss Manufacturing Company of Toledo, Ohio. Dr. Allen's son, Thomas, was active in product development and became a full partner in the company in 1905. Thomas had wanted to add perfume atomizers to his company's product line for years, but finally gained his father's approval. This would prove to be a very lucrative business venture for the next 30 years or so.
The first Devilbiss atomizers were simple crystal salt cellars that were fitted with the atomizer mounts, DeVilbiss marketed these as "perfumizers". The public clamoured for these new inventions and the "perfumizers" which had outsold the medical atomizers. Thomas modified the design for the medical atomizers and started devoting most of his time to designing and developing new styles of perfumizers.
DeVilbiss had several suppliers for his eccentric perfume bottles starting in 1910, including Steuben, Imperial, Cambridge, Tiffin, Fry, Libbey,and the Vineland Glass Works, here in New Jersey. But his suppliers weren't just centered in the United States, this network circled the globe and included both Daum Nancy and Verreries Brosse of France, Moser of Bohemia, and other companies in Czechoslovakia (who supplied a large portion of bottles until 1938), Germany, Murano glass from Italy and porcelain ones from Japan. Some of the bottles were finished products that just needed to be fitted with atomizer mountings at the DeVilbiss plant. The others were known as blanks and were decorated at the DeVilbiss plant.
The most commonly seen perfumizers would be in several different shapes: dropper styles, perfume atomizers, ball shapes, and perfume atomizers in the shape of Art Deco inspired zig zags as well as others.
The perfumizers were categorized by the company with a simple letter system. Starting with the "A" series, these were the less expensive quality and were only marked with a paper label. Unfortunately, the paper labels usually fell off throughout the years. This is why you will find some DeVilbiss bottles with no identifying marks. The "B" series were of fine quality and had the DeVilbiss signature in gilt or silver lettering on the base.
Sometimes, the signature on the base has worn away with cleaning, but if you hold the base at a certain angle under the light, a "ghost image" of the signature may be visible. Some even had the company name embossed into the base. In the 1960s, DeVilbiss produced some porcelain bottles, these are marked with "DEV".
The mountings were of brass, which were then plated with nickel or gold, the rarest being of solid sterling silver. In the late 1920s and into the 1930s, chrome replaced the nickel plated ones. The mountings are sometimes impressed with DeVilbiss on the metal collar, but not always, so check the base of the perfume. The bulbs were covered with crocheted silk netting or left plain. Some desirable bottles have the "acorn" finials on top of the mountings, these domed cabochons come in different colors of glass that usually match the color of the bottle.
There are three different types of DeVilbiss perfume bottles that appeal to advanced collectors and dealers alike.
The most expensive would be the extra fancy Imperial Jewel Glass Series, manufactured in 1928 and 1929 by the Imperial Glass Co in their patented ruby, emerald, pearl and amethyst colored opalescent glass. I have seen a DeVilbiss company page shown in the 2002 Monsen & Baer Perfume Bottle Auction Catalog which described the glass as "Foval", "Foval" glass was a trademarked type of opalescent glassware manufactured by Fry, so I am unsure if the bottles were made by Imperial or Fry. If you know for sure, please let me know. The bottles were produced in eight different types, in three different colors, both with an atomizer and perfume dropper type bottle. There was a total of 48 different bottles for this line.These bottles were mounted in ornate metal, some were jeweled and given heavy gilding. Some of these sets retailed at $50 in the catalogs and would have been equal to around $500 or so in today's money according to an inflation calculator. The Imperial Jewel series didn't make its appearance in the 1930s trade catalogs and was most likely too expensive for those struggling in the Great Depression. They are now the rarest of all the DeVilbiss perfume bottles and command extremely high prices in some instances from around $600-several thousand dollars for unique and one of a kind examples.
The second most expensive perfumizers would be the ones manufactured by Steuben. Steuben made thousands of superb Tiffany style perfume bottles in a gorgeous iridescent peacock blue and in a lustrous gold called Aurene, from 1902-1930. These bottles also feature exquisite floral etching usually picked out in black enamel. The etching was done by Hawkes. The Aurene bottles sell in the range of $500-$1200 or so. Steuben also made an amberina type glass bottle for DeVilbiss, this also displays fine floral engraving.
The third most expensive would be the Art Deco zig zag shape. This ingenious device had its metal tubing in the shape of a Z, S, or curlicue shape with the bottom of the Z or S having the bulb being attached to the base and the perfume bottle would have hung from the top of the Z or S. This unusual style is called the Debutante and retails for around $400-$500. The glass was made by Fry. Oftentimes the bases will be embossed with patent information and won't carry the DeVilbiss name.
If you are looking to collect DeVilbiss bottles, you may wish to start at the lower end of the spectrum, which would be the tall, slender 1920s-1930s Art Deco style perfumizers in both the atomizer and the dropper style bottles. These simply elegant perfumizers generally sell in the $50-$250 range. They are solid in color or have the "window-pane" style decoration around the middles. There are also others which raise the price a bit and these would be the ones that have gold encrustation, engraving or enameling.
DeVilbiss also offered powder boxes, ginger jars, cigarette boxes, match holders, candlesticks, trays and perfume lamps in their catalogs, so be on the lookout for pieces that match your perfumes.
You may encounter many different DeVilbiss perfume bottles on eBay with reasonable prices, some below book value. Another great place to acquire or just see these elegant perfume bottles would be at the annual Monsen & Baer Perfume Bottle Auctions. You can find information about them at perfumebottles.org, the website for the International Perfume Bottle Association, contact me for a brochure.
If you find a DeVilbiss bottle without it's atomizer, ball, cord or glass siphon, don't pass it up!! You can order some replacements from websites on the internet.
If you have any questions, please feel free to ask me.
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
Check out the 200+ guides & reviews I have written on perfumes on ebay.
I am currently writing an extensive reference book on 1920s-1930s era DeVilbiss, Volupte, Mignon, Aristo, Pyramid and Czech perfume atomizers, dropper bottles, etc. If you have any photos of your bottles you'd like to donate to the book, please let me know. Full credit will be given for any picture submitted.
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