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Anatomy of a Perfume Bottle

Did you know that each perfume bottle is uniquely designed to correlate with it’s own scent? Throughout history, fragrance bottles have developed a rich story of their own and here’s what we discovered.

In 1828, Pierre-François Pascal Guerlain, age 42, opened his first perfumery store in Paris. His claim to fame was his design of the Eau de Cologne Impériale perfume bottle, a gift for Napoleon III and his wife Eugenie. Today, the bottle is known as the Bee Bottle. Decorated with 69 bees and designed as an imperial symbol, its shape was inspired by the Vendôme Column, built to celebrate Napoleon’s victory of Austerlitz and located only a few feet from Guerlain’s famous perfumery boutique.

Jumping ahead a few decades, Mademoiselle Chanel instructed Ernest Beaux to design a fragrance that should “not only smell like a single flower, but to smell like a women.” Ernest Beaux created over 80 different essences for Chanel, from which she chose just one – number 5. Beaux revolutionized the fragrance industry by using aldehydes, an organic compound. According to rumors, while making number 5, he accidentally used more the suggested amount, leading to the signature scent. Superstitious as Chanel was, she ended up keeping the name “number 5” as a symbol of good luck while presenting her collection on the 5th of May. The minimalistic bottle distinguished itself from the elaborate perfume designs of the 1920’s. It’s stopper cut like a diamond is rumored to be inspired by the Place Vendôme, an earlier inspiration for Guerlain.

In today’s world, the industry hires artists like Pierre Dinand and Serge Mansau to continue the art of designing perfume bottles. Mansau is famous for his design of perfume bottles for Dior, Hermes and Cerrutti, while Dinand has made bottles for high end names like Pierre Cardin, Madame Rochas and Yves Saint Laurent. Bottles can be very expensive to develop. Rumor has it that just the pump for Gaultier’s Fragile cost $200,000 to make because the company wanted one you could press from the bottom-up. Impressive!

Next time you find yourself browsing the cosmetic counters of your local mall, notice the history in the details. There’s more than the meets the eye.

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