Wednesday, February 23, 2011
Vintage & Antique Oil Collecting
Acquiring vintage and antique raw materials for perfumery is often just a one-click bid away. Many Natural Botanical Perfumers spend a great deal of time and money obtaining rare vintage and antique raw materials through sources such as Ebay, through private collections, at flea markets, auctions and estate sales, and less often at garage and yard sales. A great deal of these vintage and antique bottles sold on Ebay are acquired by the seller through auctions of lots of materials from old turn-of-the-century pharmacies.
The demand for vintage oil collecting has increased as the number of Natural Botanical Perfumers has increased, and bidding for the most rare oils can be extremely competitive. Horror stories pop up on occasion about unethical collectors and sellers making surreptitious deals, bargaining off individual bottles from auction lots without the current bidders of the items being aware. Only when the parcel arrives does the bidder realize that they have been ripped off. One such story in circulation relates this very situation. Several years ago a cooperative of buyers won a large lot of vintage and antique oils for which they paid a premium price, with one oil in the lot of particular interest -- the single bottle of oil for which the cooperative was formed and the reason bidding went so high. When their parcel arrived, the rare bottle was missing, and after a short investigation, it was discovered in the collection of another NBP. In these cases there is often little recourse. Buyer, or rather bidder, beware!
There are also stories of happy fortune as well, as one perfumer recounts her experience with purchasing a lot of antique oils for which she paid a very reasonable price. Excited about the prospect of receiving the oils, her joy was amplified when she discovered a nearly full one ounce bottle of vintage sandalwood tucked in the parcel, a freebie the seller slipped in, clearly unaware of its value. When conducting a search of vintage and antique oils, a few of the more popular perfumery and essential oil manufacturers and suppliers names to look for are: Fritzsche Brothers, Dodge & Olcott, Magnus, Maybee & Reynard, Givaudan
Less popular are:Field & Company (Aromatics) Archer-Daniels Midland Co., Ltd.,
Plaimar Limited, Schimmel, W.J. Bush &Co., Ltd., Antoine Chiris Ltd., Mallagh &Co., C.W. Field Ltd., Payan & Bertrand, Robertet, Albert & Laloue Camilli, Charabot & Co., C.A. Charpentier, Bruno Court, Pierre Dhumez, Flora Aromatics Co., Ltd., W.H. Hobbs & Co., Ltd., Lautier Fils, Ltd., Victor Mane Fils, Old Strand Chemical & Drug Co., A.W. Munns & Co., Natural & Synthetic Perfumery Essence Company, Stanley Nicholas & Co., Roure Bertrand Fils, P. Samuelson & Co., Schmoller & Bompard, Tombarel Freres, Alfred Paul White,Wilson & Mansfield, Ltd.
Why would anyone wish to collect old oils? Because without a scent history, without a tangible piece of our Natural Botanical Perfume past, we have few points of reference. As important and helpful as Steffan Arctander's book "Perfume and Flavor Materials of Natural Origin" is, it is not a replacement for physically smelling a 65-year-old Mysore sandalwood, or a perfectly preserved 40-year-old cassia. Most perfumers who collect these old oils don't use them in formulation. They save the contents in a scent library or in a focused personal museum collection as a form of preservation.
Some perfumers decant the contents into a more appropriate and safe bottle, send a few samples off to friends, and display the empty bottle as a museum piece. Though in rare instances, as with oils of resins, woods, grasses, and patchouli, using these old oils in perfume formulation is an exhilarating experience, and can also be a selling point in marketing a perfume.
Anyone can collect rare and vintage oils. There isn't a trick to it, just a matter of research, investigation and investment.Happy Hunting.
Reprint from LPR website 2010