The perfume bottle

Save to my articles

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.”