Project 6, part 2 – At Long Last, Victory! (Part 1 here)
Welcome back to Mukashi no Sewing and the Victorian Era Perfume Case restoration! I really, truly, did not expect this project to take so long. “How hard can it be to find a single antique perfume bottle that is precisely 3 1/2″ high and 1 1/8″ in diameter?” I said to myself. I also said to myself “There’s no need to spend too much money on this; surely something simple won’t be too expensive!”
I looked all over the internet, but my three main sources to search were Ruby Lane, eBay, and Etsy. Etsy has by far the worst documentation for pieces, but also some of the best prices. In fact, the first potential winner I found was from Etsy. Unfortunately, it did not arrive in good condition:
After that deep disappointment, I had to go back to the drawing board. At that point I’d been looking for five months with no luck, so I needed to revise my standards. Originally I wanted a perfect match, but that was out the window. Then I was hoping for at least another similar-looking glass perfume bottle – cousins, if not siblings, as it were. As I hit the seven-month mark, I became less and less picky, even to the point of considering modern reproductions!
Honestly the worst part wasn’t the length of time it took to find a replacement, it was the pain of falling in love with a piece only to read the description and find out it was too big or too small. (You’d think too small would be easier to deal with, but the perfume bottle still had to be tall enough to be visible next to the original!) Finally, however, after seven months of combing the internet (and severely impacting the ads Google now shows me), I have triumphed!!
I found this gorgeous sterling silver and cut glass perfume bottle on Etsy, from the appropriately named seller SearchEndsHere. Let me tell you; after seven months on antiques websites I am a little hard to impress, but when I saw this pop up I actually gasped. I adore the combination of the sturdy glass and delicate filigree; it’s the perfect embodiment of femininity to me. I was awfully trepidatious opening the listing, but my luck held – it’s 3 1/4″ tall, and 3/4″ in diameter. The slight difference in height is actually a stroke of luck considering the diameter – in order to support it in the case I would need to add some padding, which would also nudge it just a little higher – meaning that once I got it correctly settled it would be the right height.
It’s also the right era which is an even more wild stroke of luck. The stamp on the collar is Unger Brothers, silversmiths out of Newark, NJ. (They were originally from Germany, having immigrated in 1849.) They established their jewelry business sometime between 1870-1872, and began manufacturing a wide variety of silver objects in 1878. They boasted of being jewelers, silversmiths, and glass-cutters. They were most widely known 1895-1907, and were strongly invested in Art Nouveau designs. The firm apparently closed in 1910, but may have lingered until 1919.
I would love to know the name of my perfume bottle’s design – apparently they were well-known for fanciful names such as Le Secrete des Fleurs, Reine des Fleurs, Dawn, Love’s Dream, Evangeline, Bride of the Wave and Stolen Kiss! Extant Unger Brothers catalogs do exist from the early 1900s, but so far I haven’t had any luck finding one digitized. If you have any suggestions for a name of my own to give it, let me know in the comments!
I found a scrap of kimono silk I’d gotten from an Ichiroya order ages ago that was soft and the perfect size to fold into the case to support the smaller diameter of my new bottle. The ivory of the designs matches the ivory satin of the original fabric as well!
So here is my case in all its glory, finally holding two perfume bottles again after who knows how many decades!
It was quite a long search, but I learned a lot from it, and it gives me so much pleasure and satisfaction to see the pair together, with the silver of the cap matching the silver of the case, and the cut glass of the new bottle’s body matching the stopper of the old one. I imagine the sorrow of the woman who broke the original, and then her delight when a loved one gifted her a replacement. Or maybe she commissioned it herself, directly from the renowned Unger Brothers? 🙂 The best thing to me about antiques is the stories they tell or suggest, from being treasured for so long. I hope you’ve enjoyed the story of this restoration, and I look forward to seeing you back here soon for more tales!