Tuesday, 6 October 2009

Is packaging as important as the contents?

I read the following article about perfume bottles and I thought it was amazing how perfumes started as early as Egytian times as a very functional necessity to cover up unpleasant odours or embalm the dead and a bandage soaked in fragrance worked just fine but now designers spend thousands of pounds producing the ultimate bottle shape and this has become as important as the contents!

Walk into any cosmetics department and the sweet smell of perfume fills the air. You can choose from designer brand names such as Christian Dior and Chanel to celebrity endorsed scents by pop princesses’ Jennifer Lopez and Brittany Spears. But from a collectors point of view it is not the smell that entices them to the shelves but the collectability of the innovative designed bottles. Throughout the ages perfume has been packaged in various shaped bottles made of many different materials. The ancient world used blown glass and alabaster whilst the Victorians favoured silver topped glass bottles. One of the most collected Victorian bottle is the dual-purpose double-ended one, two bottles fused together they are usually found in green, ruby or blue coloured glass, one end contained the flowery scent that the Victorian ladies liked to wear and the other for their smelling salts.

It was the turn of the 20th Century when the perfume industry began to introduce pre-packaged scents for women to buy directly over the counter. Perfumeries commissioned glass manufacturers like Baccarat and Lalique to produce high quality bottles to house these scents. The Lalique ones have become highly sought after by collectors and some command big money at auction, a rare “Bouchon Mures” Lalique bottle was sold at Bonhams saleroom in 1990 for a staggering hammer price of £38,000.
Baccarat was other leading glass manufacturer that created amazing innovative bottles to house ladies scents. One of their most recognised designs was for French Perfume house “Guerlain”. The bottle has an inverted heart shaped stopper and displays the “Guerlain Paris” label on the front. “L’Heure Bleue” was the first scent to be launched by Guerlain in this bottle in 1912 and they used the same design for “Fol Arome” and “Mitsouko” in the following years.
Today there is a huge array of different scents and novelty bottles to choose from in the commercial perfume industry but collectors are also attracted to the studio glass bottles that are skilfully made by various glassmakers. All leading manufacturers of these art glass creations, each bring a different trait to their trade and have their own personalities imprinted into their designs, these bottles are made as decorative pieces rather than functional and are to be displayed and admired. Look to manufacturers such as Isle of Wight, Okra and Glasform for high quality hand created art glass perfume bottles.
As with any female fashion collectable such as handbags or jewellery, perfume bottles really came into their own in the 1920’s. Women became more aware of their looks embracing the Jazz Age with vibrant colours, short skirts and even shorter hair. Many designer houses moved with the times and encouraged the women to complement their looks with classy scents in stylish bottles. Perfume bottles have formed a large part of our social history, the materials used and the designs created reflect centuries and decades long since past; giving us an insight into the development that peaked in the 20th Century.

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