March 29, 2023
A Note From The Founders...S
When we began collecting perfumes it was always about the spritz. Then we discovered fragrances with daubers that allowed you to dab on the scent. It wasn't long before fragrances in a solid form made their way into our collection! So yes, you can say we like 'em all!

We were surprised to learn that the history of solid perfumes actually dated back to ancient Egyptian times. So it certainly made sense that these tiny modern "works of art," caught our eye and our fascination with them continues!

For this issue, we'd like to share solid perfume history and some of the solids that are on display at Perfume Passage.

Jeffrey and Rusty, Co-founders
Early Solids History...
The history of solid perfumes can be traced to ancient Egyptian times when scents were often created using beeswax and fragrant
oils. It's been said that Cleopatra concocted a mix of spices and oils, pouring them into ceramic amphoras that could be refilled and
used again.

Cleopatra understood the power of perfume's universal allure over 2000 years ago, famously lavishing her suitors with the scent of roses. She is depicting on the mural in the Vault gallery (left).

Throughout the centuries people learned that by melting plants and fragrant leaves into animal fat, pleasant aromas would develop, and the solids they formed could be "wiped" on the body. These early solid scents were also used for religious and healing rituals.
Fast forward to the 1920s when the perfume industry continued developing new scents and expanding on perfumery methods using synthetic chemistry. Fashion designers also began introducing perfumes to reflect a changing society, and fragrances became an everyday accessory item.
Solid perfumes were one of the "modern" innovations introduced in the 1920s as the first company to produce and sell solid perfumes was Molinard in 1925 with their "Concretas." They were composed of the genuine wax from flowers which made them very concentrated, unlike the early solids that were mixed with beeswax or other wax bases.

A solid perfume means that it's actually in a solid form, not in the normal liquid that you dab or spray on. So they're easier to use and not as messy, as they allow you to have more control over how much of the scent you actually put on and where you put it.
They’re designed to be applied to your pulse points with a swipe of a finger. Typically most solid perfumes last about two to four hours, which is longer than many aftershaves, but not as long as most eau de parfums.

From a 1927 catalog page, Edouardo Bag-Dabs could be purchased for $1.25 each or $15.00 a dozen for the smaller size! Bag-Dabs were a solid perfume made in France by Edouardo. The ad claims they were made from genuine French floral wax and the fragrance would last and it wouldn't evaporate, spill or stain. The company had offices in Paris and on Madison Avenue in New York. A fun collectible today!

Estee Lauder Solids...
There are many companies that manufactured solid perfumes since the 1920s and the Estee Lauder company tops the list. Estee Lauder (1906-2004) started her business in 1946 with her husband Joseph, with four skin care products and a simple premise--every woman can be beautiful. With that philosophy, creativity and passion, she changed the face of the cosmetics industry.
She was born Josephine Esther Mentzer, and raised in Queens, New York. The name Estee was a variation of her nickname, Esty. She became interested in beauty as a teenager and learned how to concoct skin creams from her uncle, first in the kitchen and then in a home laboratory.

She started selling her skin care and makeup in beauty salons, demonstrating her products on women while they were sitting under hair dryers. In 1947, they received their first major order, $800 from Saks Fifth Avenue.

In 1953 they introduced their first fragrance, Youth-Dew, a bath oil that doubled as a perfume. The bath oil was concentrated and the scent lasted all day, so women didn't need a separate perfume. It was an inventive product that made Youth Dew an instant success and put the Estee Lauder brand on top of the cosmetic industry.

The company's first powder compact called Golden Alligator was introduced in 1967. It was a gold plated refillable piece, promoted as the ultimate beauty accessory for loose or pressed powder and it's still sold today. Their compacts have become branded collectibles and new designs are introduced every year. There have been nearly 1,800 powder compacts produced over the years.

Lauder's solid perfumes were also introduced in 1967. The tiny, often figural trinkets, were filled with the company's solid scents. The production of these one of a kind items are also very collectible and new designs are introduced annually.

The Park City Daily News in Bowling Green, KY included this December 11, 1967 ad for the Estee Lauder "Boutique Oval" solid perfume and compact set. It was the first solid they introduced and the compact and solid sold for $10 each.
Another early solid was this 1968 round gold tone shape that had a "purse" style closure with a blue glass. Called "solid perfume compact," it was re-issued in 1971 with a new name of "Golden Rope." It was featured in this Tennessee Jackson Sun newspaper ad.
Throughout the decades Estee Lauder introduced solid perfumes, some were only sold regionally in the US in department stores including Neiman Marcus, Saks and Bloomingdales. Perfume Passage has a large collection of solids from the 1960s to the 2020s on display throughout the galleries.
In the 1970s the company produced over 45 solid perfume pendants, many available using Lauder's innovative "Gift with Purchase" idea that eventually became a standard practice in the cosmetic industry.
Rare and collectible today, the ivory series of 1974 included the Imperial dog solid.
The ivory series of solids that were replicas of Chinese artifacts continued in the 1980s with new solids, including the hard to find 1981 Imperial Princess.
The 1990s produced the largest variety of figural and rhinestone solids that included animals, fruits, vegetables, toys and musical instruments. (left to right) Panda 1997, Jester 1998, Rocking Horse 1998 and Pink Rose 1999.
Estee Lauder celebrated the millennium with two versions of a champagne bucket. Other ornate solids included Cherry Pie, Gingerbread House, Ferris Wheel and Treasure Chest.
The 2000 Cinderella's Coach has moveable wheels and included 371 rhinestones!
The Harrods Bears are solid perfume limited editions issued annually in time for the holiday season since 2001. Each Bear has its own name and includes a solid fragrance. Louie was issued in 2022!

How They're Made...
  • There is no alcohol used in the manufacture of the Estee Lauder solids as they are made using concentrated perfume oil in a wax base. This means that the fragrance can last indefinitely.

  • According to the Estee Lauder company, each solid is hand-crafted by a team of master craftsmen and the process takes approximately three months from concept to completion.

  • Every solid perfume begins as a block of pewter and an exact likeness of the approved designed is sculpted out of pewter, and the inside is hollowed out and a hinge and closure are made.

  • A mold is created by submerging it in soft rubber and curing it before the passageways are carved into the mold. Molten metal is poured into the mold until the cavities are filled, resulting in exact reproductions of the original pewter casting.

  • Each cast is inspected, cleaned and polished to a high luster before a three-step plating. The cast is then plated by dipping them into copper, nickel and rhodium and/or 22k gold before being routed to final assembly.

  • They are then hand assembled, enameled and set with Austrian crystal stones. Since each crystal is set one at a time, and one item may contain up to 400 stones of different sizes and colors, this detail work is a labor intensive process.

  • Each finished piece is inspected before being filled with solid fragrance and routed for final packaging.
Over the years, several Estee Lauder designers, including renown jeweler Bob Conte, would present samples to the company of various solids for review and approval/rejection. Many were the same basic solids that were eventually produced, but with slightly different decorations or colors. There are some fabulous pieces that never made production. Based on collector accounts, much of the manufacturing took place at Victoria & Co., a jewelry manufacturer in Providence, RI.

It seems that those that have been found on the secondary market were sold by former employees after the factory was closed. Several prototypes are included in the solids display in the Deco gallery.

Can you spot the difference between the 2006 Glorious Peacock and the 2000 Gingerbread House prototypes (left) and the ones that were mass produced?!
More Solids...
While the Estee Lauder solid perfumes seem to be the most well-known, there are several other companies that made popular figural solids that are collectible as well. These solids can be found throughout the displays at Perfume Passage.
From left to right, Avon solid locket, Corday Le Carousel solid with a detailed movable unicorn with their Toujours Moi fragrance and Max Factor flower basket solids with their Hypnotique fragrance.
Diptyque is a French perfume house founded in 1961 by three artists: set designer Yves Coueslant, painter Desmond Knox-Leet and textile designer Christiane Gautrot.

When the Diptyque salon opened on Boulevard St.Germain in Paris they began offering home furnishings and produced printed fabrics. They also imported scents from England and soon added scented candles to the list of products offered.
In 1968 Diptyque launched their first scent called L`Eau, which was based on old English recipes of home fragrances. They now offer 81 fragrances! In addition, they produce eau de parfums, eau de toilettes, scented candles and perfume oil diffusers.

Their original boutique still operates at the same location in Paris and they have additional boutiques around the world including, London, Tokyo, Dubai, Miami, New York and Chicago.
Treasures of the Collection...
Born in Klagenfurt, Austria, in 1944, Angela Cummings moved to the US with her family at age three. She returned to Europe to study at the Art Academy in Perugia, Italy, and in 1967 earned degrees in goldsmithing and gemology. Upon graduation, she moved to New York and immediately joined Tiffany & Company. After creating her first full collection under her own name in 1975, she became one of a small group of well-known, innovative jewelry designers associated with Tiffany.

In 1984 Cummings left Tiffany to form her own business with her husband. She opened her first boutique near Tiffany at the upscale Bergdorf Goodman department store. The 500-square-foot space, a first for a jewelry designer at the Fifth Avenue retailer, was located in the middle of the first floor. Soon Cummings had other boutiques in stores including Bloomingdale's and Macy's.

In 2001 Cummings designed a limited-edition perfume solid called Beautiful Blossom to house an Estee Lauder perfume called Beautiful. It was introduced at the Estee Lauder Solid Perfume Compact Exhibit in Washington, D.C., after which it was sold exclusively at Bergdorf Goodman and Neiman Marcus. The 18k gold floral design with center diamonds was originally priced at $2,500. Only 150 of them were produced. She also made a matching powder compact in 18k gold that held refillable Estee Lauder Lucidity Powder. The original retail price was also $2,500 and 150 were produced. Both items are very collectible today and the solid is on display at Perfume Passage.
Solid Facts...

  • The packaging is often eco-friendly and recyclable.

  • They don't require tiny plastic spray pumps, meaning less plastic waste.

  • Solids are great on-the-go items as you don't have to worry about bottles breaking or leaking.
  • They're usually less expensive than regular perfumes.

  • Solids aren't typically as drying as alcohol-based fragrances.

  • Solids are often blended with moisturizing ingredients such as beeswax and oils, leaving your skin smooth.

  • In June 1969 the Zanesville, Ohio Times Recorder newspaper included information for nervous brides on how to use a solid perfume on their wedding day!
A MIdwinter's Night Fragrant Soiree!
On Tuesday February 14, 2023 Perfume Passage Foundation held its first Midwinter Night's Fragrance Soiree, a multi-scentsory scent dinner, at the Sanfilippo estate in Barrington Hills.

The elegant evening featured international fragrance expert Sue Phillips, of Sue Phillips Fragrance. She took our sense of scents to new heights as guests discovered the magic and mystery of exquisite ingredients used in fragrances, food and wines, indulging in these pairings, as the senses were celebrated at Perfume Passage!

This immersive and unique multi-scentsory "Sip, Sniff & Savor, ™ " sold out event began with mouth-watering hors d'oeuvres and sparkling champagne, as guests toured the galleries.

To read the full recap article go to our website: READ MORE HERE!
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Perfume Passage Journal Subscription...

In an effort to share our collection and to create reference material that is both useful for research and beautiful as a coffee table magazine, we have developed the Perfume Passage Journal.

Published three times a year, the magazine includes articles and information about the known history of specific companies and items in our galleries.

We recently launched an annual subscription program, beginning with the Summer 2022 publication on fashion illustrator and artist Rene Gruau. The annual subscription will include three print versions of the magazine. Our next issue will be mailed out next week.

Click here to visit our website and subscribe!

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Our mission is to preserve the history, beauty and artistry of perfume bottles, compacts, ephemera and related vanity items. Through education, outreach, and awareness of the Perfume Passage collection and library, our goal is to inspire art lovers, collectors, archivists and curators to keep this history alive. 
We Hope To See You Soon!

Types of tours include:

  • Private docent-guided tours
  • Group tours
  • Symphony of Scents and Sounds
In accordance with local updated guidelines, Perfume Passage no longer requires proof of vaccination against COVID-19 or masks for museum visitors. However, we strongly encourage all of our guests to wear masks while in the building.