Confusing Perfumes Resemble Vintage Originals
Classic perfume designs of the 1920-30s have inspired many new look-alike items. Many of these modern bottles made between the mid-1960s through the present day find their way into the antiques market and inevitably cause confusion.
Most of these modern perfumes were sold by giftware importers and distributors. The company of Silvestri in particular has had a number of new perfumes made in Taiwan that resemble vintage originals. Generally, Silvestri bottles do not exactly copy a specific bottle, but rather combine the general look and style of the period pieces.
Fortunately, most Silvestri Art Deco-styled perfumes mix and match bottles and stoppers from different vintage companies. The mismatched stopper and bottle combinations can be an important clue to help you separate many new Silvestri perfumes from vintage originals (see Figs. 2, 3, 10, 11). Of course, you'll need a catalog reprint or a reference book on antique perfumes, but this method is still a good way to identify the new unmarked Silvestri bottles.
Another company which made perfumes which are now confusing collectors is Papillon. This company sold a series of small glass perfumes in the early 1980s (Fig. 7.) Unlike Silvestri bottles which are not permanently marked, Papillon bottles are generally marked "Made in France" in raised molded letters in the glass.
The majority of Papillon bottles are copies of vintage originals. The two examples shown in Figs. 8 and 9 are based on vintage bottles by Molinard and Coty respectively. They are shown in the brochure under the names Tiffany and Fleur de Lis.
The blue 3-inch Pappilon bottle in Fig. 8, for example, is a copy of a Molinard perfume of the 1920s that was in crystal with gold accents and is considered to be choice by collectors. The new Papillon version is sold under the name Tiffany in the brochure. This bottle was also made in purple by Papillon.
The Papillon bottle in Fig. 9 copies another vintage bottle, A Suma, originally issued by the French perfume company Coty in the 1930s. This new bottle is slightly larger than the original and the cap is different. The Pappilon version is sold under the name Fleur de Lis in the brochure.
The new Papillon bottles can most easily be identified by a plastic ring around the dowels of their stoppers. These plastic rings date from the mid-1960s. Any piece with the rings could not have been made before that time. The plastic rings were an inexpensive way to create a fluid-tight seal on perfumes without the expense of precisely grinding the glass stoppers.
Figs. 1-4 Two modern perfume bottles made in Taiwan in the last 25 years for Silvestri, a giftware and decorative accessory business. A whole series of these bottles was made in the last 25 years based on the general "look" of vintage French perfumes of the 1920s. The bottles were created by mixing and matching bottles and stoppers of original designs. In other words, a new Silvestri perfume may have its bottle copied from one vintage maker like Baccarat while the new stopper is from another maker such as Guerlain. Both perfumes in Figs. 2 and 3 are such fantasies, neither having an exact old counterpart but both loosely based on the look of vintage originals. Most of the Silvestri bottles can also be detected by poor mold detail.
A closer look at stoppers
Fig. 5 Illustration of a typical stopper and the names of the various parts.
Fig. 6 Modern stopper with a plastic ring (arrow) around the dowel. This type of stopper was first used around the mid-1960's. The plastic ring created a tight fit without having the expense of carefully grinding the stopper.
Figs. 7-9 The sales brochure in Fig. 7 was issued by Papillon and Co. in the 1980s. The bottles were made in France and most are marked in mold "Made In France." The Papillon bottles shown here are copied from or are at least very similar to specific vintage pieces. Stoppers in the Papillon bottles have a plastic ring around the stopper dowel (Fig. 6). Such rings were never used prior to the mid-1960s. Any stopper dowel with a plastic ring dates after that time.
Fig. 10 Another new bottle with a 1920s look by Silvestri. The stopper is somewhat similar to a Guerlain original; the bottle resembles a vintage piece by Piver. The stopper and edges of the bottle are trimmed in a metallic finish. Originally silver, the metallic finish has now dulled to a dull pewter color. This example has a clear glass body but it is also known in a cobalt body.
Fig. 11 A new Lalique-styled perfume with frosted details by Silvestri. Such bottles are frequently targets for faked and forged Lalique marks. Most Silvestri bottles were only marked with paper labels which are now usually missing.
Special thanks to perfume historian and collector Helen Farnsworth for the loan of her photos and help with the background for this article.