What do I love in a gift….something French, something vintage, something to fix, perhaps something that is personal, practical and might also smell great. There is no need for fancy packaging, I’m not the best at gift wrap though I follow Sande’s lead, and I rarely do cards. But when all of those things arrive in one swoop, I am stunned.
Today a dear friend came by the market and brought me a large paper bag marked with my name. The bag contained a series of cookbooks, but on top of those were a pair of boxed, vintage French perfume bottles that belonged to her Mother. The first holds about five ounces, I am guessing. That’s a lot of perfume. It’s marked for the Caron parfum Bellodgia, Mother’s signature fragrance, which was was worn with silk waltz-length nightgowns. I would have loved to have met this woman in her day; she went through a LOT of perfume. She was, by all accounts, a stunning woman. She had impeccable taste, which she shared with her Daughter. This fragrance was created in 1927 and this Baccarat bottle pre-dates 1936 based on the matching numbers etched on the stopper and the bottle.
The second bottle is newer; it’s an unsealed 3.25 oz bottle of the same Bellodgia perfume. The label is a salmon-pink; though it shows here a little more red. This bottle is also very pretty.
You have to be precise and love your perfume to save the packaging; I do not. Though I am really happy that Mitzi saved hers.
The problem was that both bottles were fused, the perfume creating a seal, and the stoppers locked in place. The last thing I wanted to do was to damage the vintage Baccarat bottle, and of course the other was full of perfume. I spent some time online this afternoon researching how to open a stuck perfume stopper….
I was thinking of cold, to contract the glass. Several sites recommended alcohol, to dissolve the perfume that had hardened around the stopper. Not having the recommended drugstore variety on hand, I went to our bar. This stuff has been here for 30-40 years; someone from Texas gave it to us. It almost dissolved my hands on contact, I can’t imagine drinking it; I’m sure it will take care of a little dried up perfume.
So I got some cotton and made it into a thread and wrapped it around the base of the stoppers. And worked it a little, like dental floss, around the stoppers. For several hours. They cleaned up a bit. But the stoppers didn’t budge. I tried vegetable oil, and also put each of them in the freezer for ten minutes; that didn’t help….
I then tried submerging the stoppers in the Everclear, in a Baccarat glass, just for encouragement. Creative, but no use….
About this time I was ready to take the bottles upstairs and leave them as is…..but no, that would absolutely drive me crazy. I have smelled Bellodgia in the Caron store in Paris, and I was desperate to know how this vintage bottle smelled. And so, the bottles went one by one to the basement with me, where I used a large pipe wrench on the French-linen covered stoppers, and those big, beautiful, chunky stoppers easily gave way~
As these were a gift and I was really worried about damaging them, I can not tell you my relief at feeling the stoppers give way~
The vintage Bellodgia smells perfectly divine, and my Mom wanted to try it too as she had watched me labor over the bottles.
As is the case with good perfumes, it smells slightly different on each of us: Floral on Mom and Spicy and Carnation on me. Love this fragrance, and especially its provenance, of course.
Love you my friend; the bottles are in a good home and much loved. Next time I will tell you what else was in the bag of gifts.