Perfume bottles reach new high at auction

The April 30 Perfume Bottles Auction held in conjunction with the International Perfume Bottle Association’s annual convention in Reston, Va., once again surpassed all previous years’ results with active bidding from over 200 people in the sale room against telephone and Internet bidders around the globe. Prices include a 20 percent buyer’s premium.

Celebrity auctioneer Nicholas Dawes, a Lalique expert and regular on “Antiques Roadshow,” charmed and entertained the room yet kept the bidding lively and at an even pace.

The April 30 event featured a broad range of items and price points within the perfume and vanity categories with strong interest in pre-20th century bottles and all things rare and unusual. An early lot featured a circa 1800s Meissen porcelain perfume bottle depicting a colorful harlequin figure with a pointed hat and expressive facial features, a design first modeled in 1750 by Johann Joachim Kaendler. The bottle sold for $3,900.

Adding diversity were unusual soaps, powder boxes and lipstick cases, one of which, a crystal lipstick by the Czechoslovakian firm Ingrid fetched $1,440. The lipstick cap was a frosted crystal female head with an elaborate hairstyle, which covered a metal and black glass base. A matching perfume bottle brought $780, an indication of the rarity of the lipstick.

Czech collectors had the opportunity to bid on a colorful range of recognized designs hand picked from four old perfume bottle collections. All Czechoslovakian glass bottles were vetted by director Ken Leach, who will not accept a bottle without having information from the owner of who it was purchased from and where it has been for at least 20 years. This is done to avoid the admission of reproduction bottles and parts that have entered the markets in recent years.

One outstanding Czech bottle was a 1920s Ingrid perfume having a ruby red glass base with gilt metal filigree, red crystal jewels and red Bakelite roses. The opaque ivory stopper was designed as openwork leaves. It sold for $9,600. Selling for $7,800 was a 1920s Austrian perfume bottle of frosted peach color glass in the shape of a parrot. The bottle had an atomizer attachment and a gilt metal base with Bakelite and crystal jewels.

The auction represented 52 consignors with significant articles included from the Hollywood estates of a Silent Screen actress and a 1914 “Oriental” dancer, adding a nostalgic whiff of romance and spice to the sale.

Top selling lots once again fell in the commercial bottle category including a Rene Lalique bottle in its original box for the company Gabilla, selling at $11,400. The frosted glass bottle had an ochre patina that highlighted the large flower-head design on the bottle, and also came with its original tasseled box having matching colorful flower-head designs.

A surprise top-lot bottle was a Baccarat bottle for Madhva that sold for $24,000 against a reserve of $2,000 to $3,000. The bottle had wide shoulders and a tapering body with gilding on the bottle and the stopper. It came in its rare original gold fabric box.

A previously unknown bottle took the highest bid of the evening. That was a Lucien Gaillard circa 1910 bottle for the company Clamy. The clear glass bottle had a wide base with fluted sides, and a frosted glass stopper with molded lily of the valley design and green patina. Spirited competition produced a final bid of $30,000.

There were numerous lots sold that evening in all price ranges, some below their estimates and some within estimates. The star lot — and likely the most anticipated item of the evening — was an Austrian enameled, sterling minaudiere (purse) shaped as a 1920s roadster that sold for $24,000. The blue and yellow car shaped purse had a cabochon ruby “gas cap” and compartments for perfume, powder, rouge, lipstick and cigarettes.

Also spinning its wheels was a “roadster” from a different era, an 1892 Tappan Cycle perfume bottle. The wirework tricycle was the vehicle for a male, figural-bust glass bottle wearing a metal cap. The lucky bidder rode off with that unusual perfume bottle for $2,760.

Auction director Ken Leach has already accepted items for next year’s auction to be held in the Chicago, Ill., area, and is eager to consult with anyone interested in consigning perfume and vanity related pieces. Leach can be reached at or 800-942-0550.

The International Perfume Bottle Association is a not-for-profit organization and the largest worldwide association of individuals collecting and dealing in perfume bottles.

Next year’s convention will be held at the Hilton Indian Lakes Resort in Bloomingdale, Ill., April 28-May 1, 2011.

For membership information or more information about the convention, visit or call 732-492-2003. ?

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