The perfume bottle

When Coco Chanel was asked why her dressing table was covered with hundreds of perfume bottles, many of them empty, she replied: “Those bottles are my memories of surrender and conquest, my crown jewels of love.” Surprisingly, commercial perfume bottles are a relatively new invention. In the early 1900s, women would buy fragrance in simple glass containers and decant it into their own bottles (like the 1920s atomizer pictured). The game-changer was a meeting between Parisian perfumer François Coty and glassmaker René Lalique. In 1905 they joined forces and Lalique went on to create hundreds of designs for Coty and other perfume houses. Today, antique perfume bottles, known as “flacons”, have become desirable collectibles.
For London-based flacon dealer Linda Bee of Gray’s Antiques, “the interesting thing is the way they reflect art movements, from Lalique’s art deco creations to Schiaperelli’s surrealist “Shocking!” (1936). Generally speaking though, people’s interest is more emotional than cultural. I get male customers buying a bottle because it was the perfume their mother wore.”

The board game

In this hi-tech digital age, some families are returning to the simple pleasures of traditional board games. Games like chess and backgammon are often beautiful artifacts in their own right. Auction houses routinely sell antique chess sets for thousands of dollars, while brands like William & Son have carved out a reputation for selling exquisite luxury backgammon sets made from the finest leather or even crocodile skin (pictured). Investing in a luxury board game is something more and more of us are embracing – a fact not lost on design houses. Ralph Lauren Home, for example, has released a games compendium crafted from the finest materials including leather, walnut and silver leaf, while New York’s Bello Games offers myriad figurine chess sets, with themes ranging from the American Civil War to Robin Hood. But the ultimate in statement board games is surely the legendary Ringo Starr Chess Set. Made in 1973 by Asprey, in collaboration with designer Robin Cruikshank, each piece in this sterling silver and gold plated set was fashioned in the shape of Ringo’s hands, right down to the rings worn by the drummer.

The fountain pen

For a certain type of person, there is only one type of pen – a proper ink pen. Whether you’re writing a novel or dashing off a note to someone, signing in ink speaks volumes about how you wish to present yourself – which is why it’s vital to own a quality fountain pen. Of course, you’d be forgiven for thinking that email and ballpoint pens might have killed off the fountain pen, but remarkably, sales have risen over the past 10-15 years. And interestingly, while the fountain pen was once considered a masculine accoutrement, brands are increasingly designing them with women in mind – like this Bohème Doué Moongarden from Montblanc, which boasts a handcrafted retractable gold nib and a sinuous lacquered red gold-colored pattern on the barrel, inspired by tree leaves at full moon. So why exactly is the fountain pen holding its own? Perhaps it’s because it represents a nostalgia for an era when people took time to do things right, when the personal touch mattered. After all, which would you rather receive – a hastily sent email or a note written in flowing indigo ink?

The Romanesco

Earlier this year, U.S. Vogue posed the question: “Are vegetables the new meat?” Veg is all the rage right now, it seems, and not just for the usual health-conscious, save-the-planet reasons – but because it tastes great And yet there is still a nagging sense that however imaginatively prepared, cabbage or kale will never inspire the same excitement as a juicy steak – that vegetables will always be doomed to play a Best Supporting role. Enter the Romanesco, a vegetable so visually arresting, it demands top billing. Somewhere between a broccoli and a cauliflower, its tightly packed lime-green florets are an example of phyllotaxis, a naturally occurring fractal pattern. Once only to be found in farmers’ markets, Romanesco’s popularity is growing fast, thanks in part to high profile advocates like Michelin-starred chef April Bloomfield. Anyone considering giving Romanesco a whirl would be well-advised to follow Bloomfield’s advice: “Pop it into a heavy bottomed pot with some fresh rosemary, salted anchovy and tomato, roast until tender and aromatic. Just perfect.” 

The hamam towel

Canadian Jennifer Gaudet, founder of Jennifer’s Hamam in Istanbul’s Arasta Bazaar, is a passionate defender of Turkey’s vanishing textiles tradition. Thankfully her mission has been boosted by the global popularity of the hamam towel or pestemal – a compact and lightweight towel that’s highly absorbent and dries five times quicker than regular towels. “The hamam towel is something very special in Turkish culture,” she says, “because the hamam is very special. It wasn’t just a bathhouse, it was a communal meeting place. Visiting the hamam was a daily ritual. Over the centuries, Turkish women took this functional item – the towel – and transformed it into a thing of beauty.” Istanbul now boasts hundreds of stores selling a vast array of towels. And with pastels gracing catwalks this season, pestemals like those pictured (from Ailera) are sure to go down a storm. Best of all, when you’re not on holiday, they have a variety of other uses. “People use them as tablecloths, throws, curtains, scarves or shawls,” says Gaudet. “The only limit is the owner’s inspiration and imagination.”;

The globe

Demand for globes has rocketed in the past decade. Yet for the most part, today’s globes are a far cry from exquisitely made antique versions, which are expensive and often too delicate for everyday display. A hand-painted Bellerby & Co. globe, like the exquisite “Livingstone” model pictured, takes a vast amount of expertise to complete, as the firm’s founder Peter Bellerby discovered when he decided to make a globe for his father’s 80th birthday. “I thought it would take three or four months” he recalls. “After all, how difficult can it be to make a ball and put a map on it?” Bellerby soon discovered the challenges facing anyone set on creating a high quality globe. Indeed, even sourcing a genuinely round sphere proved nigh impossible. Six years on, however, his bespoke globe-making firm in London now has orders arriving from all over the world. So, in Bellerby’s opinion, what is it about these objects that elicits such passion? “There are so many things a globe evokes, from childhood geography lessons to a sense of adventure… to wondering why you’re on the planet.”

The emerald

When it comes to haute joaillerie, green is the color. Angelina Jolie, Cate Blanchett and Mila Kunis have all been spotted wearing emeralds on the red carpet; the famous Colombian emerald mine Muzo is creating a precious stone brand with top designers like Shaun Leane and Solange Azagury-Partridge; and earlier this year in Hong Kong, Christie’s sold an emerald ring from Afghanistan for $2,276,408 – an auction world record. While Colombian emeralds remain the most sought-after, African stones are coming to the fore, according to Keith Penton, Head of Jewelry for Christie’s: “African emeralds are being used by many of the best jewelry houses in their current designs. I’m sure that in time the best African emeralds will create record prices.” If you’re thinking of investing in emeralds, Penton offers the following advice: “Look for the best clarity and the richest color and avoid opaque or overly pale colored stones with no appearance of life. Above all else, buy something that you love and that you’ll wear. There’s something very sad about jewelry that lives in a bank vault.”