Originally Posted on March 11, 2010 at 11:45 PM on my original Cleopatra's Boudoir site.
Just after World War I, French glass designer Andre Jolivet started working with different finishes for perfume bottles, he was looking for something completely new and innovative and started working with a substance called “essence d‘orient”. This pearlized tincture was first created by a French artist named M. Jacquin in 1680 and is actually made from guanine crystallites found in the ground up scales of the bleak or herring and mixed with the natural oils of the fish to create a solution named “Essence D‘Orient“.
It takes a hundred tons of herring to extract one ton of herring scales in order to produce a single pound of essence d’Orient. This beautiful, iridescent coating was normally applied to glass beads to mimic Oriental pearls during jewelry making. Jolivet must have seen the potential to create interesting perfume bottle presentations and employed the Nesle Normandeuse Glassworks to create the bottles with the lustrous pearly finish. He improved upon the essence d’orient substance and managed to create a new resistant and very realistic pearlized finish “laitance de hareng” (herring roe).
Several perfume companies in France employed this beautiful finish in the making of their perfumes. Companies such as Volnay, Rochambeau, Pleville, Parfums de Marcy and others all used variations of these bottles for their presentations. One notable presentation was for the perfume Perlinette by Volnay, which may have been directly inspired by the laitance de hareng finish.
Rochambeau introduced the Perles de France presentation consisting of a set of 3 small round, pearlized bottles in black leatherette case in 1926. A similar presentation was created by an practically unknown company named Ota, in 1929 for their perfumes Lilas and Violette.
Other companies capitalized on the faux pearl theme and no one did it better than Parfums de Marcy with their fabulous Trompe l'Oeil presentation named "Le Collier Miraculeux". Launched in 1927, a box containing pearl shaped bottles in graduated sizes realistically mimicked the look of a real pearl necklace, created by Paul Heymann.
The inspiration for Parfums de Marcy's presentation must have directly come from Delettrez's String of Pearls presentation for Parfum XXIII from 1923, it looks nearly identical in every way to the presentation by de Marcy..
Equally pretty was the "Le Collier de Isabey" presentation by Isabey of 1925, with six pearl shaped perfume bottles arranged to simulate a pearl necklace in a demi-lune presentation case. It won the company a gold medal at the Exposition Internationale des Arts Decoratifs and Industriels Modernes. Isabey also made usage of these small round bottles for their individual perfumes such as Ambre de Carthage, Chypre Celtique, Bleu de Chine, Violette, Gardenia and Chypre.
Volnay introduced many of their perfumes in pearlized bottles, starting in 1919 with names such as Lilas, Rosee de Bois, Perlerette, Perlinette, Iris Neige and Firefly. These bottles came in several shapes ranging from simple cylinders, upside down cone shapes and large and small globular pearl bottles, like the ones used by other companies such as Elliot Brother's for their perfume Boronia in the 1920s.
In 1938, Varva introduced a trompe l’oeil perfume bottle in the shape of a pearl ring in a box. The pearlized glass perfume bottle sat inverted in a silvertone Bakelite ring setting flanked by two faux baguette diamonds, affixed to a leatherette box base covered with fuschia velveteen.
A word of caution, the utmost care must be used when handling any of these pearlized bottles, although the finish was made to be resistant, after 70-80s years, the finish is very delicate and can be removed by cleaning or rough handling. Such actions can result in the loss of finish which cannot be restored.