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One of the goals of this website is to show the present owners of the various perfumes and cologne brands that are featured here how much we miss the discontinued classics and hopefully, if they see that there is enough interest and demand, they will bring back these fragrances!

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Vintage Perfumes For Sale

Thursday, June 13, 2013

Parfumerie Bichara

In this guide I have listed the various perfumes presented by Bichara of 10 rue de la Chausse-d'Antin, Paris France.

c1913 ad

The Bichara perfume company was established in 1896 by Bichara Malhame (from Beirut), who styled himself as "The Syrian Perfumer". The company was first located in Rouen and Dieppe. His perfumes were advertised as "parfums enivrants" (intoxicating perfumes).


The hair dye "Extrait de Henne Bichara" of 1899 was so successful that it financed the introduction of luxury perfumes. Bichara maintained that luxury image through it's shop and constant exposure in the French press. It was advertised as "Allah est grand et Bichara est son parfumeur" (Allah is good and Bichara is his perfumer"). 

Bichara also produced fine hennas for the hair, Le Henne Bichara, and kohl eye makeup called Mokoheul, this eye cosmetic was probably introduced in 1913 and stayed very popular into the 1920s. 

Another eye cosmetic was Cillana which I found reference in a 1913 ad. These two eye cosmetics were advertised as for "charme, beaute, sante des yeux", (charm , beauty and eye health). Eau des Roses Syrie was a skin brightener which also freshened the skin. Nail polish called Firouza Bichara was housed in a small turned wood box.

Around the turn of the century, the company became immensely successful with Sarah Bernhardt as his muse, who publicly endorsed perfumes. Bichara perfumes were said to be her favorites.

Bichara's client included the playwright Edmond Rostand who called Bichara " the poet of perfume". Other notable clients were: Gabriel Faure, Gabriele d'Annunzio, and Edouard de Max.

Bichara supplied the Royal Egyptian court. In the 1920's, he opened a luxury fashion shop in London, introducing "couture made perfumes". The company exported worldwide.

One his finest perfume presentations was for the 1928 perfume Ramses II, in a tall, obelisk shaped bottle decorated with Egyptian hieroglyphs. The bottle was manufactured by the Cristalleries de Saint-Louis. This bottle is rarely found today and when it does surface, it commands high prices fit for a pharaoh himself. A recent auction estimate was $7,000-$10,500.

Another fine perfume presentation was for the perfume Myrbaha, launched in 1913, Baccarat bottle, frosted stopper in shape of pharaoh's head with grey patina. I have seen this bottle also used for Nirvana, Ambre, Yahvahna and Chypre perfumes. 5 7/8" tall. I have also had this stopper on a very rare pyramid shaped bottle before. Estimate: $1,000-$1,500. Price realized at auction: $1,200. The pharaoh's head stopper was most frequently seen on the bottle shape below, as well as the more rare pyramid shaped base.

The pyramid based bottle held Myrbaha perfume, and other scents too. I have had the fortune of owning this perfume bottle in the past and had sold it on ebay around 2002, later that year, it appeared in a well known auction house and sold for just $632. Another auction house sold this shape bottle for $4,125 with the perfume Syriana.

Early labels on cosmetics and perfumes, portrayed Bichara seizing the mythological Fortune by the hair with the inscription "Comment Bichara saisit la fortune" ( How Bichara grabs good fortune). An appropriate image since Bichara's original fortune was made on the hair product "Le Henne Bichara". The labels were redesigned in the 1920s by FL Schied in Art Deco style.

 Bichara also appeared on a Baccarat stopper portraying himself as an Egyptian pharaoh.

Bichara Malhame died in 1930 and was succeeded by his daughter, Rose but the quality of perfume presentations declined and character of company changed, exemplified by Handle with Care in 1945. Bichara continued production into the 1950's.

The "Intoxicating Perfumes" of Bichara:

  • 1913 Nirvana (still sold in 1939)
  • 1913 Myrbaha
  • 1913 Yahvahna
  • 1913 Ambre (still sold in 1939)
  • 1913 Nahila
  • 1913 Violette Des Damas
  • 1913 Ambre Egyptien
  • 1913 Mokoheul (kohl eye makeup)
  • 1913 Eau de Roses de Syrie (skin freshener)
  • 1913 Roses de Syrie
  • 1913 Eau d'Albanie
  • 1913 Chypre de Limassol 
  • 1913 Syriana
  • 1913 Therapia
  • 1913 Emirah
  • 1913 Fullah
  • 1913 Leila
  • 1913 Cillana
  • 1913 Sakountala (still sold in 1939)
  • 1917 Saisit la Fortune
  • 1921 Cabiria
  • 1921 Rose Dame
  • 1921 Liliana
  • 1922 Delices de Pera
  • 1922 Bosphora
  • 1922 Gaudika
  • 1922 Chypre (still sold in 1939)
  • 1928 Ramses II
  • 1930s 8 Mai
  • 1930s 3 Couleurs
  • 1945 Handle With Care
  • 1953 Viens

Chypre, c1922, photo by ebay seller chiquita_tuli

The Lowell Sun, 1971:
"Made to order perfume, just like couture clothes, was a part of the elegant way of living some 70 years ago. 
Rose Malhame remembers well how great artists such as Sarah Berhardt, Anna Pavlova or the writer Colette enjoyed not only the sweet smell of success but also the fragrance of a personal perfume. 
Miss Malhame's father, Bichara Malhame, was a chemist of Syrian descent who settled in Paris around 1895. Specializing in perfumes under the name "Bichara", he became famous for creating personal scents for the celebrities of those days. He used to blend ingredients in special formulas to suit the character, personality and type of lady or gentleman. 
People were more refined and life was more gracious in those days, at least for the rich," Miss Malhame said when I visited her the other day. "Elegant women wanted their personal perfume just as they had their clothes created specially for them and made to measure." 
Miss Malhame is an old lady now but in her Paris apartment an atmosphere of the elegant past has remained as her haven in today's turbulent life. Antique furniture, Persian rugs, Oriental shawls, silver-ware and the fragrance of her father's perfumes have remained unchanged by the last 70 years. 
The centenary of Marcel Proust, the film on the life of Sarah Bernhardt to be played by barbra Streisand and now the switch to more civilized fashions, all may point toward a return to a more gracious living style in the near future. 
"Women like actress sarah Bernhardt or dancer Anna Pavlova or men such as Chaliapin  or d'Annunzio knew how to live in style," Miss Malhame emphasized, adding that the conception of "style" and charm used to be different. 
For instance women used perfume not to add to their sex-appeal and for seduction but simply because they themselves enjoyed the smell of it even when alone. In those days a woman would perfume her bed and her clothes cupboard as well as lavishly splash scent on herself because she appreciated the smell of it just as she liked good food or a beautiful painting. A perfumed handkerchief to discreetly hold to the nose was a matter of course. Today girls don't even use hankies. They have tissue paper. 
It was a "narcissistic, almost psychic approach to perfume," Miss Malhame pointed out. And Bichara's names for his scents such as "Nirvana" indicated that in those days perfume was meant to give a sense of well being and self abandon almost like from drugs. 
"This obsession with sex today is rather silly." Rose Malhame said with a wry smile. In old times people had the same drives, only they satisfied them in a more civilized and sophisticated manner." 
In her apartment, Miss Malhame has a collection of photographs dedicated to her father and signed by some of the most famous artists around the turn of the century. Colette even mentions the perfumer in one of her books, calling Bichara Malhame her "kind alchemist friend." And Rose Malhame still has the special perfume formula her father composed to harmonize with the witty, lively personality of Colette. The famous writer also used to get from him the Khol which she always applied to darken her large eyes.Today the Bichara perfumes are no longer sold over the counter. Some faithful customers still come directly to Miss Malhame and the laboratory sends them to other European countries and overseas. The American actress Helen Hayes, for example, regularly orders "Nirvana" to be sent to her. 
"Perfume has to be in harmony with one's state of mind,"Rose Malhame insists. "It is a matter of taste." 
In fashion, interior decoration and art, there are signs that people are becoming more conscious of quality and harmony rather than seeking gaudiness and cheap effects. Perfume, too, may follow the trend toward a moe gracious and romantic style of life scented with flowers."

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