intaglio perfume bottle stopper
intaglio perfume bottle stopper

What’s in a stopper? Actually, a clue to value!

Last updated:

The young perfume bottle hunter notices the bottle at the flea market but often neglects to inspect the stopper before the purchase. The stopper actually gives us a great deal of insight into the value and time frame the bottle was created in.

Here is THE inspection point before you purchase:  Does the stopper fit in the bottle? No matter what kind of stopper we are discussing, it needs to fit  clearly snug-tight into the bottle. If it moves around, jiggles, wobbles left to right, sits in grossly crooked or if you notice that upper part of the stopper does not slip completely in, you very likely have a mis-match in your hands – so do not buy it!

To the best of my knowledge, three types of stoppers exist:
1. a ground-glass or -crystal stopper: this stopper was in common use for all brands pretty much up to the mid-1940’s to 1950’s. What’s significant to note here is that each stopper was made to sit perfectly in the specific bottle; hence stoppers and bottles are not interchangeable. If you look careful, you will notice that often a number will appear etched on the bottom of a crystal bottle and the same number will appear on the stopper. The stopper below belongs to the Lalique bottle shown as the feature image of this post:

2. a ground class stopper with a plastic band which allowed for the grinding to be less precise as the plastic ring held the stopper in place. This appears on some bottles in the 1950’s and has been used up until recently on luxury brands such as we can see with this stopper from Jean Patou reedition of his classics – Normandie

3. a plastic plug is fitted onto the stopper itself which completely removes the step of grinding – esthetically this diminishes the beauty and value of a bottle (see the third picture below).

As you can probably deduct, a ground stopper is generally a sign of an older creation with more value. You can also find the same bottle with all three versions as shown in the pictures of the upside-down heart stopper from l’Heure Bleue / Mitsouko:

Unless they are re-editions, the ground stopper is the oldest and the one you should add to your collection. It’s worth noting to, on the arrival of the plastic plug, bottle molds were recreated to be able to better meet the size.

Certain perfume houses did etch a number on the crystal version and no etching on the glass version though both stoppers are ground. La Nuit de Noël by Caron is an excellent example here:

One final point of advice on stoppers: in my experience I have at times noticed a bottle with the incorrect stopper stuck on. At times the only way to know this is through documentation. In our modern digital society, we all have a smart phone on us with internet access. If you are faced with an inciting purchase at an unbeatable price, but you are not acquainted with the bottle, take a few minutes to google or bing up a few pictures. This will avoid great disappointment and embarrassment at a later date.