When you mention about the material that perfume bottles are made from, the first answer that comes to people's mind will be glass. However, traditionally, these bottles of perfumes were also made from other materials and were even at one time, widely being used to produce different designs of bottles to contain perfume. Another reason these two materials were used in the past was because in the middle of the 18th century, glass in England was highly taxed.
Enamel perfume bottles were the trend in the 18th century and formed a large part of designer perfume bottles. These enamel bottles were made by large perfume houses such as Bilston or Wednesbury. From them, famous designers of bottles of perfumes emerged. Some of these artist are William Beilby and the Homer brothers whose work is now very highly regarded and are considered rare art pieces. The decorations of these perfume bottles can consist mostly of general landscapes and flowers with some of the more intricate designs featuring portraits. These enamel bottles are very uniform in character, having the same characteristics and form of contemporary porcelain.
After the middle of the 18th century, porcelain is quickly catching on to be a defecto material in producing unique perfume bottles. These highly decorative perfume bottles were usually made to model after humans or animals. These designs enable the portion where the head was located to be opened so that perfume can be dispensed. Early designs included a stopper to prevent perfume from escaping the bottle. Later designers replaced the simple stopper with intricate designs like flowers, birds or fruits. The most famous porcelain designers that came out from that era were Charles Gouyn and Nicholas Sprimont.
One of the interesting fact that occurred during the late 18th century was that both these enamel and porcelain perfume bottles had many imitations and these imitations were mass produced in very large quantities. The organization that did the mass production was Samson of Paris in the 19th century. However, these imitations have since become rare collector's items of their own due to the lack of original samples.
There were many reasons why perfume bottles were so popular back then. One of the reason was that ladies wore corsets which were very tight and this constricted their breathing. Sometimes they will pass out due to the lack of oxygen in their body. These perfume bottles not only contain perfume but also smelling salts to awaken the ladies. These perfume bottles were also used as as form of jewelery to be worn hence explaining the numerous beautiful designs.
In the later part of the 19th century, to create more unique and beautiful designs, different types of ceramic and glass materials were fused together to imitate ivory, with molded or applied ornament representing Chinese or Japanese idioms. Some of these are made to re-create the impression of traditional Chinese snuff bottles with their knopped stopper sometimes replaced with slender gold chains.