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Vintage Perfumes For Sale

Tuesday, June 3, 2014

Victorian Attar Perfume Bottles

Otto of Lavender, Otto of Rose, Rose Attar, Rose Oil bottles, Oxford lavender bottles, lay down bottles, reclining perfumes...

These types of bottles are known as the throwaway bottles, these long skinny glass bottles often had gilded decorations, these bottles were for the attar or otto of rose or lavender.

These were called throwaway bottles as when the lady of the house returned from the store where she purchased her otto bottle, she would then decant the contents into her own fancy bottles on her vanity or in her chatelaine scent bottle. The majority of these rather crude perfume bottles were made more for the common folk than the wealthy.

I had reported previously that the bottles were only made in Germany and Bohemia but upon further research, I have found that many of the gilded examples actually originated in Turkey.

These flacons were manufactured in glass houses in Turkey at Beykoz. Selim III (18th century) sent Dervish Mehmet Dede to Venice to learn the art of glass-making and on his return a glass workshop was established at Beykoz. Although the manufacture of glass had existed since the early Ottoman period, the production was limited to utilitarian bottles and vases or stained-glass panels used in architecture. Art glass was imported from Venice during the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries and later from Bohemia. Beykoz is a small village near the Black Sea on the Asian side of the Bosphorus. It is one of the oldest communities in Istanbul and has been a center of Islamic glass manufacturing since establishment of a factory in the late eighteenth century, producing a considerable amount of glass and crystal ware. The goblets, bowls,  stemmed bowls, tulip and rose-water flasks, bottles and dishes in transparent or opaque glass - some decorated and others gilded glassware - from Mehmet Dede's workshop are called “Beykoz isi”, or Beykoz work.

Bulgarian historical review, 1975:
"The vial (muskal) is a glass container with a capacity of 4.81 grammes of attar of roses. It is an Arab measure and its value was equal to 24 karats of gold. The vials had different forms and decorations. To prevent them from breaking, they were laid in a wooden container."

These were sold at spas, fairs and shops and not made for refill, hence the name throwaway. The earliest mention I have found for them is in an 1804 newspaper, The Times (London).

Another early mention is from an 1830 New York Evening Post newspaper, "Otto of Roses, in small gilt bottles, warranted pure, put up in boxes of one dozen each."

Edgefield Advertiser, 1856:
"This oil is brought to Constantinople in hermetically sealed copper vessels, varying in size from those capable of holding an ounce to those which hold seven pounds, so that, at the regular market price, ($6 an ounce), one of these copper cases may be worth $50. The oil is worth six times its  weight in silver. The ordinary amount of oil produced in Hassanlik (in Bulgaria) is a little less than 3,000 pounds. At Constantinople the oil is put up in gilt bottles, manufactured expressly for the purpose in Bohemia."

Most bottles measure 7” to 8” long and have a ground stopper with a round, flat top. These bottles were usually made of clear glass, but can also be found in blue, amber, green or other colors.

These bottles were blown glass and the stoppers often had a long dauber that reached down near the end of the bottle, the glass was decorated with ovals, crisscrosses, spirals, crosshatching, and flat planes cut into the sides. The bottles were hand decorated with bright enamels or rich gilding.

These are not tear bottles. They were made to hold perfume oils.

American journal of pharmacy, 1868:
"Attar of rose is exported in large quantities in what are called cuncumas that is to say flat flasks of tinned copper having a short and narrow neck. These vary in capacity from 1 to 10 pounds they are sewed up in white cloth either at Kizanlik or when necessary at Constantinople sealed and provided with the Custom House ticket. Among the bottles must be mentioned the long angular little vials usually of minute capacity. These cut and gilded glass bottles in which attar is so often imported are said to be of German manufacture, which travellers bring home as presents after a journey in the East. They hold perhaps about fifteen drops of oil are tied over with bladder and red silk and what invests them with most value are sold in the bazaar to the unwitting traveller at a high price. They often contain simply a few drops of geranium oil the bladder being smeared with a touch of attar."

Good Housekeeping, 1880:
"The otto, which many persons like to have lie amongst their clothing in small vials, should not be purchased except from dealers of well- known character. It is sometimes amusing to note how people, otherwise shrewd, will allow some Armenian in a red fez to sell them an article purporting to be genuine " Turkish Otto of Rose," and which, at the best, is doubtful. The long narrow cut and gilt bottles said to contain otto usually contain Turkish oil of rose geranium with perhaps a touch of otto just under the cap and are dear at any price asked by vendors of no responsibility. Even among large dealers in perfumes oils and extracts it takes a long experience to buy understandingly otto of rose musk or vanilla some one or two dealers in the larger cities making a of one of these articles and employing their own expert grade them."

New Remedies: An Illustrated Monthly Trade Journal of Material, Vol 9, 1880:
"Original Packages of Otto of Rose. Otto of rose is now generally imported in kunkumas, which are flattened round tin bottles sewed up in thick white woollen cloth, holding 1 to 10 lbs, and bearing a calico label inscribed in Turkish characters. The label should indicate the tare of the bottle in Turkish weights, the rough rule for calculating which is to take 10 drachms as equal to 1 oz English. The small, gilt, white glass bottles which are commonly the only original bottles known to retail druggists, are imported from Germany into Constantinople, and are there filled by the merchants. These also should bear a calico label indicating the tare in Turkish weights. The epithets Virgin and Optiss are of English origin they are quite unknown in Turkey, and seem to have no equivalents there. They are probably applied arbitrarily according to the vendor's belief in the purity of his samples. All gilt bottles of otto may be treated alike."

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