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Vintage Perfumes For Sale

Friday, September 13, 2013

Factices and Dummy Display Perfume Bottles

In this guide I will introduce you to the world of perfume display bottles, also called Factices (pronounced fack-teece), and dummy bottles in the perfume trade.

A factice is an advertising store display bottle that is lent to a perfume vendor (department stores) by the perfume house and are not meant for retail sale. The bottles are exact replicas of the normal perfume bottles. Because these bottles are on loan, they are usually returned back to the perfume house and not sold publicly.

In the early days of factices, these might be filled with perfume, but as time went on, manufacturers began to use colored water, a type of colored antifreeze, a mixture of rubbing alcohol or formaldehyde, or glycogen is used in most examples. The colored water examples sometimes have some sort of sediment or flaky particles floating around in the liquid, this is most likely caused by bacteria or mold growing in the water. Some factices, such as those for My Sin by Lanvin, are hollow, opaque plastic bottles, with no liquid inside.

The colored liquid for the factices often come premade in advance in aluminum containers when they are delivered to the department stores. Alternatively they might come as an extract in a small plastic bottle and the shop owner would have to mix it with distilled water.

I would like to mention that factices came in many sizes, from smaller versions of their retail examples to identical sizes, all the way up to much larger than life examples. These larger bottles are known as giant factices.

The older factices were made of glass or crystal, the newer ones of plastic or acrylic. The bases may be acid stamped or etched with "dummy", "factice" or a "D" engraved into the glass.

I have three possibilities on how the factices were marked. They were probably scratched "dummy" by the glass factories before they were sent to the perfume factories, or were scratched on at the perfume factories so that it wouldn't be mistakenly filled with the actual perfume. Another possibility is that it could have been scratched on by a store employee to differentiate it from the perfume filled examples.

I wanted to mention that some vintage Guerlain & Balenciaga bottles are often marked dummy on the back of the label that is on the front of the bottle. The only way to see the word dummy is by looking through the back of the bottle and seeing the back of the label on the front of the bottle. Since the labels were affixed at the perfume factories (which were in France but the bottles were for American export) it would make sense that the word "dummy" was used instead of factice (French for artificial, fake). Please note that recent examples might have a sticker or label on the back of the bottle that states "dummy" or "for display purposes only" or "not for resale".

Some factices are one solid piece, meaning the stopper is molded into the base and not removeable. I have seen some acrylic factices like this for Givenchy perfumes.

Don't confuse a tester with a factice. Testers are advertising bottles filled with actual perfume and were meant to be used. Some stores will sell testers, and there are companies who will wholesale testers to the public. Testers generally come without a cap or box.

Please make sure you mention factice in your title and description. Collectors of factices will be able to find it easily. And people who are looking for the actual perfume bottle (not a factice) will appreciate your honesty.

The larger factices are generally much more desired than their smaller counterparts. The best factices are those marked Lalique or Baccarat, these signed pieces command the highest prices. You can find many different factices on ebay quite easily. Why not add one to your collection today?

How to determine if your bottle is a factice:

Is your bottle sealed with contents? Does it look like perfume? How can you tell if you have a factice? Some simple ways of determining this are listed below:

Shake the bottle. Do you see floating particles? if so, it is a factice. The particles are bacteria forming inside the colored water.

Shake the bottle. Do you see a separation of the contents? Do you see little balls of oily substance in a sea of what looks like alcohol? Then you have perfume in your bottle. The perfume oils often thicken due to age and evaporation. The fragrance congeals a bit leaving small oil balls in the alcohol.

Does the bottle have a waxed paper seal? if so, it may not be a factice. Vintage perfume bottles are usually sealed with onion paper which has been waxed over to prevent spillage during shipment. Also the stopper will be tied with a cord which wraps around the neck of the bottle. Some factices, such as the Chanel often times have this too, but I have never seen a factice with the waxed paper seal.


Can you smell perfume around the mouth of the bottle? If so it is not a factice. Your factice should have no perfume smell at all.


Are the contents dark and discolored? If so, it is most likely not a factice.Vintage perfume usually discolors and turns a darker shade over the years when exposed to air or heat. The liquid in factices should not discolor with age.

Look at the stopper and the neck of the bottle. Do you see any discoloration? If so, this will not be a factice. Vintage perfumes, due to the oils and evaporation, often discolor the inside neck of the bottle and stopper and leaves residue even if its still sealed. Factices should be clear and clean with no residue present.

Some buyers prefer their factices emptied before shipping, this keeps the shipping costs down as filled factices can be quite heavy and expensive to ship. If you want your bottle emptied before shipping, please make mention of this to your seller.

If your factice is empty, you may wish to refill them with a colored solution to look like perfume. It should not be plain water, as the bacteria in the water can cause mold and you will see floating flakes of gunk, which is not pretty. Also due to the bacteria, it may eventually cause clouding to the glass, which cannot be reversed and really looks horrible and ruins the value of your bottle. Instead, you can use this mixture to fill them. 

Mix the following:
  • 3/4 parts rubbing alcohol
  • 1/4 part distilled water

To make the colored dye to mimic perfume, mix the following:
  • A few drops of food coloring
  • Small amount of warm water
Then add the the color mixture to the alcohol mixture. If you omit this step and simply add the food coloring directly into the alcohol mixture, it will not mix right and you'll only end up with colored bubbles.

Now, take a medicine dropper, plastic pipette or use a funnel to decant the alcohol mixture into your bottle. Be careful not to get any labels wet, as this can causing staining or rippling and will hurt the value of your bottle. Do not fill the bottle all the way to the top, leave some "headspace" for the glass to expand.

You can store any leftover mixture and save it for use the next time. 

What to do with smaller factice bottles? Use them for a display on your vanity or in a window instead of your precious perfume bottles. You can store your actual perfume bottles away from the light and heat, and use factices on your dressing table for a beautiful display.



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