Sweet smell of success in Surrey

A collection of 34 antique perfume bottles achieved the sweet smell of success at Surrey auction house John Nicholson’s when it sold for a combined hammer price of £25,000 recently.

derby porcelain perfume bottle and stopperTop price was the £3400 paid for a 2¾in (7cm) long derby porcelain perfume bottle and stopper, decorated with a striped cat pursuing two turtle doves up a tree, the base with a seal of a prancing horse and angel. In a shaped leather case, it came undated but is similar to other bottles from Derby dating to the mid 18th century. The estimate was £250-500. (left)

Louis XVI period gold and enamel oval perfume bottleA Louis XVI period gold and enamel oval perfume bottle, the blue ground inset with a grisaille portrait, and classical figure on the reverse, with the inscription la vertu fut ma gloire (virtue was my glory), carried the same guide but more than trebled the upper end of it at £1700. (right)

A 4½in (11.5cm) long, 18th century South Staffordshire pear-shaped enamel perfume bottle, with topper and chain was also pitched at £250-500, but made £1500.

18th century rock crystal and gold scent bottle and stopperAnother example guided at £250-500 was a 3in (7.5cm), 18th century rock crystal and gold scent bottle and stopper with chain that sold for £1200. (left)

cameo glass perfume bottle by Webb Thomas Webb & Sons, the 19th century makers, are celebrated for their swan head Cameo perfume bottles, with examples in museums such as The Met. Here a conical cameo glass perfume bottle by Webb with a silver band and top, made in Birmingham in 1885, is decorated with a narcissus on yellow ground. At 4¾in (12cm) long, it was expected to fetch £250-500, but in the end made £850. (right)

Incorporating a silver bracelet, a 19th century silver perfume by S. Mordan & Co, London 1888, carried hopes of £100-150 and outstripped this comfortably at £800.

Two highlights came in at £750. The first, a finely engraved 2in (5cm) high silver-gilt vase-shaped pomander in four sections that screw into each other, is thought to be from Augsburg in Bavaria and dates to c.1690. It had an estimate of £200-300.

coalport porcelain leaf-shaped perfume bottleThe second, a 3½in (9cm) long, c.1800 coalport porcelain leaf-shaped perfume bottle, with butterfly stopper and gilt blue and red decoration on a white ground, was guided at just £80-150. (left)

Marked GH, a 4in (10cm) long Victorian silver perfume bottle and stopper, London 1885, was enamelled with butterflies and wild roses and took £600 against an estimate of £100-150.

perfume bottle in shape of a fish with silver tailCompleting the perfume bottle highlights was a crystal example in the shape of a fish with silver tail, London 1906, which was made in collaboration with Thomas Webb who had registered the design in 1884. At 6½in (16.5cm) long, it had the same £100-150 guide and took £550. (lot 1468)

The auctioneers expect to offer another tranche of the Joyce Paretti Collection of Perfume Bottles in future and are delighted with this performance. A number feature in Edouard Launet’s 1999 book Perfume and Pomanders: Scent and Scent Bottles through the Ages.

Early keys and locks may not command the same price levels as perfume bottles, but the Vittorio Paretti collection of close to 80 lots offered in the same sale held its own well.

17th century polished steel lockJoint honours went to a heavy 17th century polished steel lock, with small key with cloverleaf handle, and a 17th century iron lock and key as a ball. The first (left) had been pitched at £100-200, the second at just £25-50, but they took £460 each.

Four iron and steel key of varied design with a joint estimate of £50-100 made £360, while two 17th century keys with pierced handles guided at £50-75 went for £340.

A tiny pierced polish steel key and a small folding key, both only 2in (5cm) long, sold together for £300 against expectations of £25-50 (lot 1405), and a 5in (13cm) long, 17th century iron key with pierced handle, carrying the initials CPF, made £280 against hopes of £25-50, the same price as paid for three early iron locks guided at £50-80.

Finally, five iron and steel keys of various designs took £240 against hopes of £50-100.

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