June 28, 2021
A Note From The Founders
What Can Be Devoured or Worn As a Fashion Accessory?
A 1900s tiny 1/2" 14k gold vinaigrette charm. One side has etched designs and opens to reveal the grille and the area which hides the scented cotton. The other side has a blue enamel horseshoe.
A Vinaigrette or Pomander!
The first mention of a perfumer being recorded was in ancient Mesopotamia. We know that the ancient Egyptians used scents in all aspects of their lives from religious ceremonies to burial rituals. Perfume wearers also conveyed their social status by wearing fragrances--lily was a popular scent.
While those who could afford perfume were usually concerned with their appearance and fashion accessories, the sanitary standards of the day was most likely the deciding choice to douse one's self with scent!

One of the IPBA's founding members, Joyce Geeser, began collecting early perfume bottles, vinaigrettes and pomanders after first finding some perfume bottles at a local garage sale in the 1970s.
A favorite enamel perfume in Joyce's collection is an Austro-Hungarian sterling scent bottle with enamel in the Renaissance style, c. 1880. It has a Janus-head stopper with a face on both sides. It also has a Phoenix bird on the front (pictured left) and St. George and dragon on the back (pictured right).
"I soon discovered antique shows and found exhibitors who had perfume bottles for sale. Jean Sloan was one of those dealers that I met, and I purchased some of my first Victorian bottles from her," Joyce said.

Beginning in the 18th century, many vinaigrettes in a variety of shapes and forms were manufactured, mostly in sterling or gold. The vinaigrette had a small pierced, decorated interior grille to hold the scented sponges or pieces of cloth. The interiors of the silver containers were usually gilded to prevent corrosion because of the contents which consisted of vinegar mixed with perfume. Vinaigrettes were used for restorative purposes to sniff when one felt faint.
The grilles, as seen in these vinaigrettes above, were often ornate with intricate scrolling, flowers or other decorative designs. Grilles with a filigree or wirework design can also be found on early vinaigrettes.

Vinaigrettes can be found in a variety of sizes ranging in width from 1/2 to 4 inches.

Perfume Passage has displays of vinaigrettes throughout the galleries. Not all vinaigrettes were round or rectangular shaped. A variety of figural shapes were popular, including the satchel, shell and basket. They can also be found in the shape of books, lanterns, nuts, eggs, crowns, hearts, etc.
Joyce notes this hallmarked cute flower on a stem vinaigrette can be worn as a pendant. It has holes on the bottom of the hinged flower and cotton inside of the stem, c. 1868.
Vinaigrettes could be worn several ways, as when a lady felt faint from a too tight corset and heavy dress or if she needed a whiff of something pleasant while traveling, wearing a vinaigrette around her neck made it quickly accessible.

Another popular method of wearing a vinaigrette was on a chatelaine. A chatelaine is a decorative clip that ladies wore at their waists that had several chains suspended from it. Each chain held a useful item such as a small mirror, pencil, sewing item and vinaigrette.
An ancestor of the vinaigrette is the pomander, which can be traced back to around the 14th century. These scented objects took the name from the French "pomme d'ambre," referring to the small apple shape of many of the containers, and ambergris, the waxy resin substance used as the base from which perfumes are then added.

The substances inside pomanders were valued more for their medicinal and protective powers against the plague and other diseases. Those dreadful illnesses were thought to be caused by "bad air." The cure then was to protect oneself by carrying something that would surround the wearer with "good (scented) air."

Joyce noted that as plagues were dying out, different scents such as flowers and spices were used in figural pomander containers and often worn as amulets. In addition to apples, she has found many pomanders in the shape of other fruits, such as oranges, pears and pomegranates.

Her favorite are the figural pomanders and vinaigrettes such as those in the shape of skulls, frogs, snails, eggs and hearts, as each symbolized something. Snails symbolized rebirth and resurrection because of their ability to both emerge and retreat into their shells.

A fun figural pomander from Joyce's collection is this frog on a leaf, c. 1640. There are three divided areas inside with written descriptions of the contents. The backside has another pierced compartment

The pomanders were slightly different from vinaigrettes, as pomanders generally did not have an inside grille. Early pomanders were generally spherical in shape but figural containers arrived around the mid 1600s.
They could also be worn as a pendant or dangling from a chatelaine. Like vinaigrettes, they were often made from precious metals and can be found with decorative engraving, gemstones and enameling.

While Joyce seldom wears her vinaigrettes and pomanders, her family understands and supports her collecting interests. She says they understand that all of her research and knowledge gained allow her to spot interesting and unique items!

Joyce shares this lemon shaped vinaigrette with a textured surface and pull-out silver gilt grille from around 1875, and it can be easily worn.
Vinaigrettes and Pomanders on display at Perfume Passage
These 1920s sterling and enamel 1" vinaigrettes unscrew in the center to reveal an area to hold the scent soaked cotton. They have a ring to wear as a pendant.
Silver egg shaped vinaigrette that can be worn as a pendant with detailed enameling with cherubs. It's hinged and opens in the center to reveal the vinaigrette. Measures 1.25"
Enameled silver harp shaped vinaigrette with a lady playing the mandolin. The bottom opens for the vinaigrette. It measures 3.5" x 1.5"
This 6" rose/green/black knitted vinaigrette purse has a double chain and finger ring to carry it. The 1-1/4" square top has glass over a painted scene on ivory. It opens to reveal the vinaigrette and is dated 1846 on the inside.
A rare mid 1800s vinaigrette gold ring with a cabochon garnet with gold star and rose cut diamond. It has a hinged opening for the vinaigrette.
1.5" long gold clam shell vinaigrette with pearls and an insect on top that is decorated with turquoise and pearls.
A rare 1800s 1-3/4" x 1-1/4" porcelain monkey vinaigrette that has cherubs on the silver back.  
A rare 2" sterling and enamel ladybug vinaigrette whose wings lift up to reveal the vinaigrette area. 
A 1" 18k gold skull with great detail. The jaw opens to expose the vinaigrette area.
Gold basket with handle vinaigrette with an enamel baby and flowers. It has a fold over clasp that opens to reveal an ornate grille that covered the scented sponge. Measures 1-1/4" x 1"
Can you imagine removing your silver gilt jade screw back earrings when you felt faint and need a whiff of scent? Both earrings are hinged to place a scented sponge inside, c. 1900s.
A simple looking silver oval vinaigrette from the mid 1800s.
This is a nicely detailed sterling 2" elk shaped vinaigrette that opens under the neck. Most likely made for a man.
During the Victorian era, coral was thought to ward off evil spirits and provide good luck. So the owner hoped to keep diseases away if they used these gold vinaigrettes with coral cherubs.

A Favorite Find of Joyce's
The skull shaped silver pomander dates from 1640. There is a cross shaped screw to open and close the pomander. The poetic verse is engraved on the subdivided interior.
Joyce shares with us that the skull was a form that intrigued her, so when the opportunity to acquire one online appeared, she jumped at the chance and bought it.

It was a very unique one because it had a poetic verse inside: "If you (re) alive when I am dead, tis true what ere to you I said; tho I spoke in vaine this ends my Paine."

She thought this was an unusual verse to say the least. And continued to acquire information and photos of pomanders because she loves the research as it helps her identify pomanders, especially when some sellers are not aware of what they have.

One day during research she discovered a catalog online of the sale from the collection of Ralph Bernal, Esq. from March 5, 1855. The man was a collector extraordinaire. He collected all things big and small and the sale was so large, 4300 lots, that it took 32 days to sell it!

She downloaded the catalog and looked thru it for anything scent related. Imagine her surprise to see an item described as: A silver scent case-date about 1640-in divisions, formed as a skull; it opens by unscrewing at the top, engraved – "Tho I spoke in vaine, "This ends my paine." and "If you alive when I am dead, "Tis true what ere to you I said."

Could there be another skull with that same verse?! She doubts it.
Treasure of the Collection
A treasure of the Perfume Passage vinaigrette collection is this Tiffany 1870s sterling perfume vinaigrette in the shape of a Roman amphora. It has flowers all over and includes a chain and finger ring to carry it. The top screws off to place perfume and the center opens to reveal the vinaigrette area.

Inside the vinaigrette area it's marked Tiffany sterling. It also has the initial M and 1529 Union Square. This piece was made by noted American silversmith and art collector Edward Chandler Moore. He learned his craft in his father's shop as a partner from 1848-1851 and inherited the business. He entered into an exclusive contract with Tiffany & Co. in 1868 as an independent outside silversmith.

In 1870, Tiffany's moved to the Union Square address in New York and the initial M for Moore, allows us to date this piece to the 1870s. Moore worked as Tiffany's chief silver designer until his death in 1891.
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Perfume Passage Foundation is dedicated to preserving the history, beauty, and artistry of perfume bottles, compacts, ephemera and related vanity items. The Foundation seeks to educate and inspire visitors by illuminating the connection between perfume and the human experience
We Look Forward to See You Soon - Autumn 2021

Located in the Chicagoland area, the Perfume Passage Foundation is 38 miles northwest of downtown Chicago and 25 miles from O'Hare International Airport.

Types of tours include:

  • Private docent-guided tours
  • Group tours
  • Symphony of Scents and Sounds