Trying to date vintage Shalimar and navigating eBay to find a bottle of the version that you prefer might seem, at first glance, to be an exhausting, frustrating, and complicated ordeal. However, there are some basic guidelines to make things much simpler. It’s one of those things where the learning curve is initially steep but then, suddenly, it becomes much easier and one can (almost) whip through the many eBay listings to single out the bottles which fit your precise parameters.
So, today, we’ll spend quite a bit of time on the bottle designs for vintage Shalimar, their history, their appearance, their packaging, their differences, and the methods used to try to date the bottles. The analysis will focus almost entirely on the parfum, but I’ll briefly mention the bottle designs for the other concentrations that were discussed in Part II. They’re not hard to date or figure out for the most part but it’s a different story for the parfum, particularly since most eBay sellers don’t know much about the bottles that they’re selling. I recently had to use a sort of reverse engineering or backwards analysis based on nothing more than the height dimensions (inches) of a listed bottle in order to figure out its size and possible date of release. And I’m still not sure of the latter! The process is much like playing Sherlock Holmes except, in this case, the tiny clues often don’t yield definitive answers.
I want to emphasize that I’m not an expert on dating Shalimar bottles, but I’ll go over the basics and the factors that I personally use or look at when trying to decide which bottle to buy. “Dating” can be an extremely technical, arcane, and overwhelming process at first and I found it quite confusing myself when I started out, so I’m going to try to make things as simple as possible by using as many photos as possible to show the small differences between bottles. I’ll also provide you with links to various guides or articles that go through the minutiae and specifics of the many types of Shalimar bottles over the decades for you to read on your own time. In addition, I’ll share a few of the tips that I’ve picked up for navigating eBay listings and finding hidden gems, sometimes for a more affordable price than expected.
Before I start, I want to underline once again something that I said in Part I: there is a lot of guesswork involved when trying to date anything much earlier than 1976 which is roughly when Guerlain began using codes on its bottles and boxes. Unless you luck out and find a seller who was the original purchaser of the bottle, their relative who knows the history of the bottle, or someone with incontrovertible and specific evidence (like a receipt with the date of purchase, for example), then you can never know with absolute certainty if a bottle dates to, say, the 1950s, the 1960s, or any other decade prior to the 1970s.
For the most part, when it comes to the very old bottles of vintage Shalimar, one is basically using deductive reasoning to draw imprecise inferences and conclusions from wholly circumstantial evidence. So, if you’re hoping for a “hard and fast,” set rule on dating, there isn’t one. If someone tells you with categorical certainty that their bottle dates to a specific year or decade, pre-1970s, and they’re not someone who falls into the categories that I’ve listed above, then I think they’re fooling themselves. Most of the time, there are just estimates and guesses in this area. Guerlain had many different bottle designs, particularly for the parfum (like the “urn, “rosebud,” or “umbrella” bottles) and each one was in use for several decades, but I know of no Guerlain fragrance of any kind that came with batch codes prior to 1976. So, my tips or pointers are, like everyone else’s tips and pointers, merely rough guidelines. With that word of caution, let’s move onto the specifics.
SHALIMAR PARFUM – THE SIGNATURE “BAT” OR “URN” BOTTLE & ITS FOUR MANUFACTURERS FROM 1925 to 1986:
The most famous and instantly recognisable bottle for Shalimar parfum is one whose shape is compared to a “bat” or to an “urn,” and that signature design has been in use straight from the fragrance’s debut until the present day without major modification. Its official name is the “Flacon Chauve Souris.” From the 1920s to the late 1970s, it was manufactured by three different companies. Baccarat was the very first in 1925, then Cristal Romesnil and Pochet et du Courval later on. The companies used different methods to put a stamp on the base of the bottle, words like “Guerlain” and/or “Made in France.” Cristal Romesnil and Baccarat used acid-etching, while the Pochet bottles had an intertwined HP mark. (More on the base marks much later.)
The situation with Cristal Romesnil and Pochet et du Courval is interesting. I’ve read that Cristal Romesnil made some Shalimar “bat” parfum bottles as early as the 1920s, but I can’t say that I’ve come across anything they’ve made at any point except for one bottle of Mitsouko parfum that bore their “CR” log on the bottom and that the eBay seller said her grandfather bought in Cuba in the 1940s. I certainly haven’t seen any Shalimar bottle bearing a sign that it was made by CR. I have no doubt that they exist, but they’re not common enough for me to have seen them. The Pochet ones seem, comparatively speaking, to be more common, and I think I may have come across a few of their “bat” bottles, usually from things that are estimated to be 1960s or 1970s in age.
After looking at numerous bottles from various decades for both Shalimar and other Guerlain fragrances, I have a few thoughts and impressions but, in all candour, I don’t know how accurate they are. I have the sense that Pochet and CR made the greatest number of their bottles from the 1950s onwards. Not just for Shalimar, but for a number of the Guerlain parfums. I also have the sense that they made bottles more often for Shalimar’s non-“bat” shapes in those years. (I’ll talk about those other bottles in a moment.) Finally, the few bottles that I have seen from the two companies (again, in shapes other than the “bat” or the “urn”) look like they have very different glass than bottles manufactured by Baccarat.
To my eye, none of them look like heavy crystal in the way that the Baccarat does. To me, the latter gleams in the light. It also has a noticeable heft, thickness, and weight that instantly stands out. Perhaps I’ve simply not seen a really special bottle from the other two manufacturers, but my point is that the Baccarat bottles seem to visually stand out, even in small photos on eBay, simply by virtue of the instantly recognisable look of the crystal.
The look of the crystal is the only manufacturing information that has ever helped me in choosing a bottle. It tells me that a bottle is Baccarat and, as a result, most likely to be from the 1950s to the early 1970s. (eBay almost never has anything from earlier unless it’s an empty collectible.) Since most of the Baccarat bottles that I’ve seen on eBay date from that time frame, if I approach things from the reverse point of analysis, the easily identifiable look of the crystal helps to put me in the general ballpark of those decades. (I hope that was not too confusing and made sense. )
Personally, I find all the rest of the CR or Pochet stuff to be confusing and deeply unhelpful. I’ve never seen any “bat” bottle that bears the mark of either company manufacturing. By the time most of these bottles come onto the eBay market, they’re so old that most of the signature on the base of the bottle has faded away. Even if they hadn’t, I have no idea how such information would help me to date a bottle. I’ve simply included the Pochet and CR information because it’s relevant to the history of Shalimar’s most famous bottle design and it may possibly prove to be useful to someone, somewhere, at some point in time but, for the average person, I would suggest sticking to the gleaming look of the Baccarat crystal if you want visual assistance in narrowing down your search to the really old bottles and sticking to the 1950s to mid-1970s decades.
Matters would seem to be complicated by the fact that a fourth company entered the mix in 1981, but it turns out that their bottles are the easiest to visually identify and, therefore, to date. Saint Gobain des Jonqueres seemed to take over the production of the “bat” bottles from 1981 to 1986. That’s relevant because their bottles have a telltale giveaway: the stubby, squat, and chunky look of their stem. I’ll talk more about that much later in the section on “Bottles Stems & Base Markings,” but here is a photo for now, showing a Saint Gobain bottle on the left with its stubby, squat stem and base. On the right is an older bottle from the 1970s made by Pochet et du Courval with its thinner, narrower, somewhat concave stem and narrower base:
VINTAGE SHALIMAR EXTRAIT IN OTHER SHAPES & DESIGNS:
There is a blog called Guerlain Perfumes, unaffiliated with the company, which has the most exhaustive list of every bottle ever put out by Guerlain for any fragrance or body product since the company’s birth. It’s absolutely encyclopedic in its knowledge and focus, but I confess that I initially found it to be more confusing than parts of the Internal Revenue Code (and I find the U.S. tax code to be quite indecipherable). One reason why is that the blog’s analysis is organized by bottle design or shape, not by fragrance. So one has to go through everything to figure out if the bottle was made for something like vegetale body oil, Shalimar, or an entirely different product. Be that as it may, there is no resource like it if you want to know the design, history, size, weight, centimeter or inch height, manufacturer, and general, overall dates of production for a bottle.
The site shows that vintage Shalimar parfum came in quite a few other shapes besides the “bat.” Some I’ve never seen before. For example, from 1938 to 1945, Pochet et du Courval made a bottle called the “Wartime Edition” to house all the extraits, including Shalimar. During the 1940s, Shalimar parfum also occasionally came in the squat Jicky quadrilobe bottle.
One of the more common parfum bottle types (comparatively speaking) is the “rosebud” bottle. It got that nickname because of the rosebud look of its glass stopper. The Guerlain Perfumes blog says that its official name is the “Flacon Amphora” or “Flacon Amphore,” and that it was made from 1955 to 1982 by both Baccarat and Pochet et du Courval. (However, I’ve seen eBay rosebud bottles that have reportedly been made by a different company, Verreries Brosse.) The Guerlain Perfumes blog says the stopper in the Pochet bottles was “changed to [a] plastic rosebud screwcap in 1978.” Below are photos of two Rosebud bottles that I found online, and observe the difference in their stoppers. (Click on any of these photos in this section to expand them to full size in a new window for easy viewing.)
Regardless of manufacturer, from what I’ve seen on eBay, the bottles are all 15 ml or 1/2 oz in size, and they measure roughly 4 and 1/2 inches high. They’re not widely found on eBay, and the prices are not cheap as a result. The price range seems to be roughly $150-$250. On a “price per ml” basis, that’s much higher than the amounts that I’ve seen the “bat” bottles go for.
A third design called the “umbrella” or “parapluie” bottle was added to the Shalimar stable in 1952 and lasted until the late 1970s. This design was used for other Guerlain parfums as well, like L’Heure Bleue or Mitsouko. The Perfume Shrine writes that “the simple ribbed elongated bottle… was introduced in 1952 by Pochet et du Courval and was popular well into the 60s, with paradigms circulating into the 70s and even the 80s.” [Emphasis to words added by me.] In all cases, though, the parapluie/umbrella bottles are only 7.5 ml or a 1/4 ounce in size, and I believe they measure roughly 3 inches in height.
There were three different packaging formats for the Umbrella bottles. I’ll talk about the third one in a moment. The first type seems to be the most frequent, a purple flocked velvet box. It was used from the 1950s up to the late 1970s. The second type is a black leather pouch. From what I’ve read, I have the sense that they were intended as a travel case or for the purse. They seem quite rare. Below are photos of the first two types of parapluie/umbrella packaging:
The collage just up above is one that I made from photos that I found on the internet, and the potential dates of the bottles seems to be, going from left to right: the 1960s, 1960s, and either very late 1970s or early 1980s. The people who took the original photos gave estimates for the dates of their bottles and stated the reasons why. I don’t think they were pulling the information out of thin air because two of them seemed to have spent quite a bit of time researching packaging, bottle design, and bar codes. The third one, the seller with the leather case, repeated what I already knew myself. In short, I think their date estimates may possibly help you if you’ve got a bottle with a similar sort of packaging.The third packaging option was a brown and cream, wood-like, patterned or designed box that had images of people, animals, and the harvest on its top and sides. The lid opened on hinges to show a cream interior. Some boxes were lined in silk. As a rule, this type of box was typically a Marly Horse edition for the fragrance. (Much more on the Marly Horse later.) It wasn’t limited just to Shalimar parfum, but was also used for the extraits for other fragrances that Guerlain put out at the time. I have the sense that this box format originally dates to the 1950s, perhaps the 1940s, but it seems to have been used all the way through to the end of the 1970s. The average price range for the 7.5 ml bottles is usually about $45 to $85, but I’ve seen some eBay sellers asking for $120-$150.
I’ve generally stayed away from the Umbrella or Rosebud formats for vintage Shalimar because I’ve always sought the largest bottle that I could find, so that I don’t have to hoard the scent or apply miserly amounts, and because significantly larger sizes are available for the “bat” bottles. However, it’s a good option for other Guerlain fragrances, like Mitsouko or L’Heure Bleue parfums, because those aren’t widely available in really large size bottles. (For example, I’ve never seen a single bottle of Mitsouko or L’Heure Bleue in a 2 oz or 4 oz size. And their 1 oz bottles aren’t commonly or easily found on eBay.)
From what I’ve seen, the “parapluie” may be the second most widely available vintage design for the extrait concentration but, just remember, it can date into the 1970s and in some cases, even into the 1980s in slightly tweaked versions, according to the Perfume Shrine. (A basic article on vintage Shalimar by The Perfume Magazine says the same thing.)
The photo collage below summarize things by showing the main or the historically significant bottle designs for vintage Shalimar parfum during the 20th century. It starts, from left to right, with the 1938-1945 “Flacon de Guerre” war bottle, then the mid-1940s Quadrilobe, the 1952-1970s Parapluie or Umbrella, the 1955-1970s Rosebud or Amphora, and the most common of all, the traditional, signature “bat” or “urn” bottle which has been in use from 1925 until the present day. (You can click on the photo to open it in a large size in a separate window.
OTHER CONCENTRATIONS OF SHALIMAR – THE EDC, EDT, PDT & EDP & THEIR BOTTLES:
Vintage Shalimar eau de colognes comes in an instantly recognisable design. Officially, its name is the “Montre” or “Watch” bottle, but a some people call it “the disk bottle” because it has a round, disk-like shape topped by a pointy, conical, glass stopper. I’ve read that some of the bottles were made in Mexico, but people say that their scent is no different from the ones made elsewhere. As I said in Part I, I’ve never tried the cologne because I have no interest in the weakness of that concentration. Plus, I dislike the extra citrusy, brisk, clean, and light freshness that is typical of the cologne style, and I’ve read that the Shalimar one is very “refreshing” indeed. Be that as it may, it seems to be quite popular from what I’ve read. Plus, the cologne may be the most inexpensive and widely available of all the vintage Shalimar versions or formats.
The eau de toilettes for more than 30 Guerlain fragrances came in the “Goutte” or “tear drop” bottle, which is the same one you’ve seen in the photos of my large 1976 splash EDT bottle. The Guerlain Perfumes article says that the teardrop bottle was in production from 1923 to 2001. In addition to the Goutte splash bottle, the eau de toilette also came in an atomiser bottle of various shapes, like, for example, the one shown in the photo to the left. It dates to the 1990s. In the 1980s and later, the eau de toilettes were widely found in a narrow, rectangular-looking bottle design or in various types of atomiser canisters, like a gold lattice-looking one.
Guerlain released its first officially named “Eau de Parfum” concentration in 1990 for all its fragrances. However, as I explained in Part II, it was actually preceded by the Parfum de Toilette which is what Guerlain originally named its eau de parfums. They were the same thing in terms of concentration. Most sources state that the Parfum de Toilette was released around 1986, but my little bottle has a 1984 bar code date on it. Make of that what you will. In terms of bottle design, the following Monsieur Guerlain image should demonstrate the changes in presentation from the debut of the Parfum de Toilette in the mid-1980s to the EDP going up to the present time:
SHALIMAR PARFUM – RARE OR LIMITED EDITION – THE “AVION” BOTTLE:
One of the rarest types of Shalimar in the “bat” or “urn” bottle design was something called the “avion” or “Presentation Avion” bottle which was launched for a short time in 1960 on Air France flights from Paris to New York.
I’ve never seen a bottle offered on eBay, but a Basenotes member called “nmdragonfire” bought one and shared several photos on a forum thread. I hope she won’t mind me using a few of them, and will accept my thanks. They really clarify the description given by The Perfume Magazine and show how exactly this “avion” format differs from the Marly Horse purple packaging:
The box was slightly different in the fact that instead of laying down inside the box, the bottle would stand up snugly inside a small plinth, in which the box lid would slip over making a cover. The stopper was not inside the bottle itself but was inside a tiny cardboard box which was included in the presentation box.
The perfume was sealed with a cork covered in a thin plastic seal. These bottles were made by both Baccarat & Pochet et du Courval, look for their logos on the base, an entwined HP or the Baccarat symbol.
I haven’t found any information on exactly how long the “Avion” bottle was available, but all the references that I have read mention only 1960, solo, and by itself. That leads me to think that the “Avion” bottle might have been a one-off thing and didn’t extend beyond 1960. If it did so, it was not for much longer.
SHALIMAR PARFUM – THE MARLY HORSE EDITIONS, THEIR BOXES & THE ISSUE OF DATES:
When I began doing my research to find out why my mother’s 1950s bottle was so stupendous and earth-shattering in its richness (see Part I), the first thing I learnt is that vintage Shalimar parfum is not some uniform beast and that age really makes a difference. It wasn’t simply the obvious, well-known issue of scent evaporation resulting in a darker, more resinous scent over time. There was also some mythical thing people talked about called The Marly Horse.
It was actually a presentation box, not a type of bottle or bottle design, but the word seems to have developed into some sort of short-hand code for an ultra special, ultra magnificent version of Shalimar parfum. The horse represented the famous Marly horse statues in Paris that now stand at the entrance to the Champs Élysées, and it was stamped on the inside lid of the purple, flocked velvet box in which the vintage parfum bottle was housed. (Based on what I’ve seen on eBay and elsewhere, the Marly Horse urn or bat bottles during the 1950s and 1960s always looked like Baccarat ones to my eye.) As you can see from my photo, the color of the velvet itself has faded into a pinkish mauve due to age. My mother’s 1950s Marly is practically a dusky rose in hue. In contrast, the velvet on newer, more recent boxes is a really bright, bold, imperial purple.
The look, size, and location of the logo seemed to vary. From what I’ve noticed, the horse was smaller, less ornate, and located higher up towards the top of the lid in the 1950s, 1960s/1950s, and 1960s Marly presentation boxes that my mother and I own. It’s bigger on the boxes I’ve seen that seem to date from the 1970s with their bright purple colour. In addition, the design suddenly looks more elaborate, and the location of the horse stamp has dropped closer towards the middle of the lid.
The increased size applies not only to the Shalimar bat bottles, but also to the Marly horse presentation boxes for other Guerlain fragrances, like Mitsouko and L’Heure Bleue. In all cases, if you look at the size of the horse in relation to the box, you can see it’s not extremely large in older boxes. Compare the look of my Marly boxes in the photo right below — focusing on the size of the horse, its location, and even the colour of the boxes themselves — with the ones in the two photos that come right after it, and I think you’ll be able to see the differences:
From my research, it appears that the Marly Horse logo was stamped on the inside lid of all Guerlain parfum presentation boxes issued during a certain time frame and for all the parfums concentrations across all bottle designs, not just for Shalimar or its urn/bat bottle. For example, you can find it inside the boxes for vintage Mitsouko parfum in its heart-shaped stopper design, L’Heure Bleue parfum, the Shalimar rosebud bottles, the amphora ones, and other designs so long as the fragrance was a pure parfum and was issued during a particular time frame.
The question is, what exactly is that time frame?! I have no definitive or clear answer. The Perfume Shrine states that the Marly Horse editions “start[ed] from the 1930s and continu[ed] into the 1950s,” but I am firmly convinced that they lasted until much later. Look at the two boxes up above and how they differ from 1960s Marly/Baccarat ones that I own. In fact, I’ve seen eBay listings for Marly Horse Shalimar bottles that explicitly state that the bottle is from the 1970s.Some bottles that I’ve seen have other attributes that, to me, would tend to suggest a date much later than the 1930s or 1950s. A handful of the smallest size bottles (1/4/ 1/3, or 1/2 of an ounce) look different in shape than older bottles, and I don’t think it’s simply because their tiny size makes the proportions look different. No, I think it’s because they date to a more recent era, like the late 1970s or perhaps even later. Some simply look off when compared to the 1950s/1960s bottles, like, for example, the 1/2 oz bottle in the photo above and to the right. It’s currently listed on eBay and, to my eye, looks extremely weird in the pointy shape of its corners and the limited number of fluted lines going across the top of the bottle, but maybe it’s simply the angle of the photo. (Hmph. I doubt it.)
The fact that quite a few of the purple boxes (in any size) on eBay come with the “zebra” black and white outer casing is particularly telling to me as evidence against a 1930s-1950s time frame. The purple presentation box is only one of two layers of packaging; the outer zebra” or zig-zag, black and white boxes were not produced until 1967, and were in use through the early part of the 1980s.
In short, the Marly horse logo is not a reliable indicator of age if you’re trying to incontrovertibly date something to the 1950s or earlier. In fact, the Guerlain Perfumes blog has a photo of the “Rosebud” parfum in all Marly boxes and lists the “1970s” as the end date. (On a separate but related matter, I have to say, I also disagree with the Perfume Shrine’s claim that the Marly Horse logo was on the actual parfum bottle itself as well as the box. I’ve never once seen any bottle bearing the horse logo. Ever. And the Guerlain Perfumes blog makes no mention of a Marly horse design on any parfum bottle, either.)
The basic thing that you should take away from all this is, in its simplest form, is:
purple boxes + Marly Horse logo = a good step in the right direction.
But it’s only the beginning. Another thing to look at is the colour of the velvet boxes themselves. If they’ve faded to take on a dusty, mauve-ish hue, then that’s a good sign of age as well. You should also consider whether or not it’s accompanied by the “Zebra” /zig-zag outer case. If it was, then fragrance dates to the latter’s 1967-1983 time frame, not before.
However — and this is important — in my opinion, none of these things by themselves should be the dispositive factor that determines whether or not you buy a fragrance. They should not drive your analysis or decisions because, by themselves, they’re not as important as something else.
JUICE COLOUR ABOVE ALL ELSE:
Neither Marly horse logos nor oldish-looking, pinkish mauve boxes should drive your search because the thing that matters above all else, in my opinion, is juice colour. If you focus too much on the look of the presentation box or whether it has a horse on it, you may miss out on a truly fantastic bottle of fragrance. For vintage parfum, of any kind, the darker the liquid, the greater the likelihood of age. And, I firmly believe that older is better because it makes the olfactory bouquet richer, deeper, more rounded and with greater complexity and nuances.
Focusing too much on the look and colour of the presentation box almost led me to miss out on a bottle of vintage Shalimar parfum that actually turned out to be the very best one that I’ve ever bought. In fact, I find it to be almost as beautiful and astounding as my mother’s 1950s Marly bottle. I cannot even begin to tell you how incredible it smells, how jaw-droppingly complex and opulent, how animalically furry in its opening hours but complex throughout, and how dizzingly powerful it is. When I received the package, the scent of bergamot, roses, and vanilla wafted with such force and reach through the sealed layers that my heart sank with the thought that the bottle must have leaked inside during transit. I was stunned to find that it had not; the purple box and bottle were intact inside, and buried within layers of protective packaging. This fragrance was just that powerful and rich.
I have no idea how old this bottle is, and the age signs are extremely confusing. Initially, I was certain that was a 1970s bottle, based solely on the look of the box, its colour, and the simple “Guerlain” stamp inside its lid. That’s what I thought when I saw it on eBay. On the other hand, there are signs that point to the 1960s or perhaps even before. It has the sort of postage-looking stamp on its base that my mother’s 1950s bottle has, as do all my 1960s and 1960s/1950s ones. Its liquid is dark; its gleaming glass is most definitely heavy Baccarat crystal; and the acid-etching on the bottom of the bottle’s base has become extremely faint with age and time. Also, it has a cork in it, just like all the rare “Avion Presentation” from 1960 that I talked about earlier. So, all these last factors might suggest the early 1960s. [UPDATE: it turns out this bottle actually is a 1960 Avion bottle! The seller contacted me recently because she found the glass stopper and an accompanying cardboard box. She had no idea of the latter’s significance, but it is a purple one marked “Presentation Avion.”]
Still, what put me off a little when first seeing the eBay listing was the box. Many of the presentation boxes with that simple, one-word “Guerlain” stamp inside the lid seemed to be from the 1970s. (Not only were the perfumes inside often described as such by the seller, but they often came with the outer “Zebra” packaging that dates to the post-1967 era as well.) Now, there is absolutely nothing wrong with a 1970s bottle — nothing at all! — but I was specifically looking for something to try to replicate the scent of my mother’s 1950s Marly one. That has been my main goal for the last few months, and so I was hoping for something as old as possible.
There were three reasons why I put aside the whole 1970s possibility and bought the bottle anyway. First and foremost, the colour of the juice. Even in the seller’s poor quality eBay photos, it looked extremely dark. In person, it is such a dark mahogany, walnut brown that it looks almost black from a distance. I think the colour may actually be even darker than my mother’s 1950s bottle! It’s not dense and not syrupy as molasses like my mother’s (the juice in mine is very liquidy in concentration), but the colour… my word!
The other reasons were because the measurement given by the seller — over 5 inches in height without its 2 inch stopper — indicated that the bottle was a huge one, roughly 4 oz in size, and that is extremely rare. Finally, there weren’t a lot of bids on the listing, so I thought I could get it for a good price. I think some people may have been put off by the fact that there was no glass stopper, only a cork. It didn’t matter to me given the low prices, the gigantic size of the bottle, and the colour of the juice. Plus, the highly sought after “Avion” bottle came with a cork stopper, so it’s not like that was a bad thing by itself. [Update: as noted above, this bottle actually is an Avion one, which explains the corked stopper.]
I ended up winning the auction for $102.50 in total (with priority shipping included). It’s an amount far below what it’s worth and also far below what I’d put in as a maximum bid. I’d lost a previous 4.2 oz bottle when I’d been unwilling to go above $225, and I’d been willing to go that high for this one because the juice in this was loads darker. I think $102 is simply astonishing for any vintage Shalimar parfum in such a huge size, and I’m not saying that solely because I’m completely gleeful about my incredible luck and good fortune (which I am and which I’ll probably continue to be for months to come because I honestly can’t get over the price!).
I’m harping on it because its proof that knowledge about Shalimar bottles, patience, and keeping an open mind can pay off. Early in my quest, I’d been considering a few listings for 1/3 or 10 ml bottles, a few of which weren’t even completely full, because their $85 or $95 price seemed affordable and fit my budget. As my research taught me more and more about bottles and technical details, I realised that they actually weren’t a good deal at all on a price per ml basis. In fact, the best bargains came from sellers who didn’t really know a lot about their bottles, who weren’t frequent vintage sellers, or who had rather shoddy looking photos. The key is, you first have to arm yourself with knowledge about what to look for — which is what I’m hoping this guide will do for you — but don’t let any one factor limit your options, perhaps not even the issue of juice colour.
SIGNS ON THE “BAT” PARFUM BOTTLE ITSELF — THE LABEL:
All of this, every single thing that I’ve written thus far, is useful under a certain set of circumstances, like whether the bottle has extra dark juice or the eBay seller has photos of the box. But what if the liquid colour is just like that in every other bottle out there? Or what if there are no box photos, no packaging information, and zero information on the age of the bottle? How do you decide then, especially if you’re trying to choose between two similar listings at roughly the same price?
At that point, one has to look at the actual bottle itself for clues as to its age. The design itself doesn’t help much since so many vintage Shalimar designs were used until the 1970s, in some instances until the early 1980s, and, in some case of the “bat” bottle, well into the present day.
The simplest and easiest starting point when it comes to vintage Shalimar is to look at the actual label on the bottle itself. Does it have one word on it, or more? The label on all the “Bat” parfum bottles is called “the dolphin;” as a general rule, from 1925 to the mid-1980s (and ignoring a weird exception from 1925-1936 for the “No. 90” bottle), the wording from 1925 to the mid-1980s had only one word on it: “SHALIMAR“.
However, starting sometime around in 1983/1984 (when the black and gold coloured outer box replaced the Zebra one) and lasting right through to today, the label changed to have four words: on it: “Pᴀʀғᴜᴍ SHALIMAR Gᴜᴇʀʟᴀɪɴ Pᴀʀɪs.” The bottle in the photo to the upper right is a good example. (As a side note, this label analysis only applies to the Bat parfum bottles. The label for both the Umbrella and Rosebud bottles was round and the writing on it, in large and small caps, said “Shalimar Guerlain Paris.” Some even listed the quantity/size of the bottle in microscopic figures underneath.)
Right now, at the time of this post, there is a listing on eBay asking $1100 for a 30 ml, 1 oz bottle of “vintage Shalimar” in a limited-edition, Baccarat bottle. Think about that price for a minute, and compare it to my $102 Baccarat bottle in a 125 ml or 4.2 oz size. You know what the kicker is? No matter when exactly my bottle dates to — the 1960s or the 1970s — it’s still older than this over-priced offering. And you know how I know that? Because its label is in the style from the mid-1980s to the present time:
If you’re looking for the older versions of vintage Shalimar in the bat bottle, the label should look like this:
SIGNS ON THE “BAT” PARFUM BOTTLE ITSELF — BASE STEM & BASE MARKINGS:
A one-word “Shalimar” name could still be an early 1980s Saint Gobain bottle, so if you’re looking for something older, then you have to turn to other clues yielded by the bottle. For example, acid-etching versus cut words on the bottom of bottle; the thinness or chunkiness of the fluted stem; and more.
For that, I thought Angelaira’s Vintage Perfumes blog was a life-saver. Her 2012 post on Shalimar emphasized the parfum and had a lot of photos of how to tell apart the ones bearing the simple “Shalimar” label. I encourage you to read her post in full, but I’ll share one photo that I found to be particularly effective in demonstrating the differences between two seemingly similar 15 ml extrait bottles, both bearing a simple “Shalimar” label. The photo originally came from Basenotes member “Ayelfior.”
The bottle on the left dates from 1981-1986, and has a chunky, squat, fat stem. That stem is a tell-tale giveaway of a newer bottle by Saint Gobain, and is a dating factor that I’ve relied on a lot. According to the Guerlain Perfumes blog, Saint Gobain bottles also had “wide feet” and, if you look at the base of the bottle here, you can see they’re talking about. The bottle on the right is older. It’s from 1970s and is probably a Pochet bottle. It has a thin, inverted bottle stem, and a narrower base (or “feet”). There are also differences in the font and size of the words “Shalimar,” in the size of the label, and in the thickness of the black trim around it.
Below is another image of a vintage Saint Gobain bottle, circa 1981-1986, that I found on eBay. Once again, you can see the fat, stubby, squat stem and “fat feet,” but look also at the bottom of its glass base in the photo to the right:
You can see that the words seem to be cut into the glass, and that each one has a relative depth. This method of treating or cutting the glass was a newer thing because, previously, the letters on the base were etched in acid. In fact, from Shalimar’s debut release in 1925, I think all the bottles made by Baccarat or Cristal Romesnil used acid to etch the company’s signature on the base. This practice lasted until the 1970s. (The Pochet et du Courval ones had an “HP” stamp on their base, but I don’t know if acid was used.)
[UPDATE: I discovered Pochet et du Courval’s “HP” mark on a bottle of L’Heure Bleue parfum, circa 1967. It’s the squiggly mark to the far right and it is not acid-etched, but that may be solely because bottles from the 1960s were not subject to that method of glass markings in general. Perhaps the “HP” logo in earlier decades was etched in acid. But at least the photo below shows you what it looks like in the late 1960s: ]
I’ve never seen one of the Cristal Romesnil stamps on any bottle on vintage Shalimar parfum, but I did come across it on an empty bottle of Mitsouko extrait that the eBay seller said her grandfather bought in Cuba in the 1940s. It’s in astonishingly mint condition and shows the stamp with a degree of clarity that I’ve never encountered elsewhere, so it should give you a good idea of the general look:
The stamp on all the “bat” bottles that I own or have seen on eBay look nothing like that. The letters are often very difficult to make out unless you look extremely close and in the light. Even then, some of the letters have faded out of sight completely. And there is absolutely no manufacturer’s mark at all.
The only things that are clear are perhaps the only two things that matters: 1) the letters are not carved deep into the glass of the base; and 2) they are accompanied by the old paper stamp whose use goes back to the 1950s, the 1960s, and even earlier.
Take, for example, the bottom of that huge, corked Baccarat bottle that I bought for such a bargain and whose date, either 1960s or 1970s, I cannot figure out [Ed. note update: the one which turns out to be an Avion Presentation bottle from actual 1960]:
Do you see how the shape of the letters, like “Guerlain” or remainder of the “France” word, is somewhat shadowed in shape? Well, the font is much finer on my two Marly bottles that date to the 1960s/1950s and the 1960s. Those two also bear a paper stamp, but lettering is so fine that they seem to be etched in acid. In addition, both have weird symbol curlicues to one side, one of which clearly looks like a “2” or “Z,” but I don’t know what that means, if it’s the remnant of some Baccarat stamp, or something else. Still, observe the nature of the letters (to the extent that you can see them with all the fading) because this is an example of the “acid-etching” that I and so many others talk about with regard to the older bottles, particularly those done by Baccarat.
[UPDATE 11/10/16: Raiders of the Lost Scent now has a Guide to Guerlain Stickers, so you should also pay attention to the stamps or stickers in the photos below because the stickers, their wording, and their colour are major indicators of age, as the captions will explain:
[UPDATE cont’d: according to the Raiders‘s article, it turns out that the sticker shown in the second photo above, the one with the word “Belgique” in it, probably dates from the 1930s to late 1940s. Red/Blue stickers that lacked the word “Belgique” seem to be from 1950 to 1956/1957, as shown by my third photo up above. These stickers have text in monochrome colouring (just blue or green, for example), Roman/Latin numerals in different locations, and the text ends with the phrase, “magasins de PARIS.”
Compare the look and wording of those stickers with the one below which dates from 1967 to 1976. The colour of the text is just in blue, so monochrome instead of two-toned; the last words are “legislation en vigueur” instead of “magasins de PARIS”; and there is an alphabetic letter (A or B) in the lower left hand corner, not a Roman numeral:
Please read the Raiders’ article for full details on the issue of stickers/stamps and for examples in other decades.]
In the 1970s, both the look of the stamp and the method that was used engrave the letters changed. The following bottle of Shalimar eau de toilette may be a mere EDT, but the methodology used was the same as for the parfums, and the photo shows you how the lettering and stamp looked during a clearly established year, 1976:
Things changed again in the 1980s when Saint Gobain took over the production of most of the Shalimar bat bottles from Pochet and/or Baccarat. Angelaira’s Vintage Perfumes has another great collage, again using photos originally from Basenotes member “ayelfior,” that demonstrates the differences between the 1980s and pre-1980s bottles. (You can expand the photo to full size in a new window by clicking on it, just as you can for most of the photos in this piece.)
Please notice how the actual size and shape of the glass base differs between the two in addition to the nature of the “stamp.” The Saint Gobain bottle on the left shows the use of some sort of engraving method to carve the words deep into the glass itself. It has a clear plastic sticker as well, although I personally think that those stickers were circa 1984, given other Shalimar bottles that I’ve seen in lower concentrations from 1984 onwards, so I don’t think they were typical to the earliest 1980s Saint Gobain bottles.
I realise that all of this is deeply technical and probably quite boring, but it’s intended to train your eye to recognise the “acid etching” issue for bottles dating from the 1930s to the 1960s, and to instantly pick out the Saint Gobain bottles from the 1980s onwards. If the goal is to get the richest, darkest, and oldest juice, you need to train your eye but the basic gist of things in this part can be summed up as:
- Acid-etching = excellent and best;
- Shadowed lettering = good;
- Narrow, concave bottle stems = all years up to the late 1970s, and best;
- Saint Gobain, chunky squats stems, and fat feet = not so good.
WORKING BACKWARDS — FIGURING OUT SIZE AND/OR DATES VIA HEIGHT MEASUREMENTS:
What happens if you find a bottle with a narrow stem and solo “Shalimar” label, but you can’t tell anything else about it? You can’t see anything on its base, and you can’t even figure out something as basic as its size, whether you’re looking at it in person or via an eBay photo. What then?
Some eBay sellers give no specifics about their bottle except for its height from the bottom of the base to the top of the blue glass stopper. That’s it. They give absolutely no other information. They don’t even have an idea as to how big the bottle is in ml or oz. That is obviously a factor which will impact how much you want to spend, or even if you want to buy the bottle to begin with.
I recently found myself in the position of trying to figure out just how big the bottle was based on nothing more than its height in inches. The price was fair and the photo of the presentation box showed an indentation that — proportionally speaking and relative to the rest of the box — would seem to suggest that the bottle was a large one. Yet, the one and only bit of information that the seller provided was its measurement, and even that was just a rough estimate, somewhere around 4″ (inches) from stopper to base.
It turns out that the bottle was, in fact, a tiny one in terms of its ml or oz weight and, therefore, not worth the asking price (to me), but I would never have been able to ascertain any of that without the invaluable and encyclopedic breadth of details in the Guerlain Perfumes blog article. It really is a brilliant piece of work. If you go to the “Flacon Chauve Souris” section midway down the page, you’ll see a list of height and oz/ml figures. It’s divided into 2 sections, one just for Baccarat, and one for all the other manufacturers. The latter sub-section sometimes includes dates for the bottles, based on Guerlain’s official quantity numbers on a bottle (“10cc/10ml/0.388 oz,” to give just one example), as well as dates for when Guerlain dropped the “cc” part to only use “ml” and/or “oz” instead. In two instances, those changes correspond to when Saint Gobain was in charge of the bottles during the 1980s.
It’s an innocuous looking list with a seemingly mundane set of minutiae and I initially thought it was quite irrelevant, scrolling quickly past it each time I saw it during the last two months, but something suddenly clicked in my head this weekend: what if I could use the height measurements to not only figure out the amount of juice in each bottle, but also, in a few cases, the general age of the bottle? It would be a ballpark estimate and far from certain or specific, but even knowing that a bottle was a 1940s to 1970s one could be useful. In two instances, if you knew the exact height of your bottle, you could figure out that it was made by Saint Gobain sometime from 1981 to 1984 or 1981 to 1986! I wish there were a similar height-ounce-date connection for the Baccarat ones or for all the Shalimar parfums as a whole but, alas, there is not. None of the Baccarat information on her list comes with a date.
Figuring out the height-size connection from the listings requires working backwards. If you’re like me and a list of numbers makes your eyes glaze over, then you may find the following correlations that I jotted down for myself to be useful, but it’s only a partial extrapolation of the blog’s entries so I encourage you to read her article for the full list. (And, once again, all the height measurements go from the very top of the glass stopper down to the bottom of the base.)
I created two tables for you, but I’m hopeless with HTML/CSS coding (and WordPress screws up whatever I did learn about cell borders or width), so please forgive the look of the following:
|If the bottle measures:||Then the bottle quantity is:|
|4.13″ or 10.5 cm||20 ml or 0.7 oz|
|5.63″ or 14.3 cm||30 ml or 1 oz|
|6.1″ or 15.5 cm||60 ml or 2.7 oz|
|7.87″ or 20 cm||125 ml or 4.2 oz|
FOR OTHER MANUFACTURERS:
|If the bottle measures:||Then its quantity is:||and the possible date is:|
|3.5″ (inches) or 8 cm||10 ml or 1/3 of an oz||1954 or after.|
|3.23″, 8.2 cm, and has wide feet||10 ml or 1/3 oz||1981 to 1984, by Saint Gobain.|
|3.66″, 9.3 cm, and has wide feet||15 ml or 1/2 oz||1981 to 1986, by Saint Gobain.|
|3.6″ or 9.3 cm, but it does not have wide feet||16.5cc or 0.558 oz||
1964 onwards, changed in 1978 to register as 15 ml, so dates are 1964-1978 and quite possibly beyond.
|3.94″ or 10 cm||30 ml or 1 oz||anywhere from 1948 to 1978, and quite possibly beyond.|
|5.91″ or 15 cm||60 ml or 2 oz||anywhere from 1962 to 1978, and quite possibly beyond.|
Those are not all the bottle sizes, measurements, or weights, so you should check the actual post. As a side note, the dates listed may not be set in stone. Also, the caveat — “and quite possibly beyond” — is one that I’ve added myself because the 1978 dates given by the blog seems to refer, I think, merely to when Guerlain changed its official measurement from cc/ml/oz to just ml/oz. One cannot infer from that that Guerlain actually stopped making the bottle entirely after 1978. It’s not a logical inference from a simple, passing change to the measurements listed on a label or box. Plus, we know that, from 1978 to roughly 1981, Pochet manufactured bottles in different heights and sizes until Saint Gobain took over.
Be that as it may, at least the height measurements can give you a general idea of when your bottle was produced. So, if any eBay seller says that their bottle is 5.91 inches, you know that it might be as old as 1962 or, at the very least, somewhere in the vicinity of 1962-1978+. If it doesn’t have “fat feet” or a chunky, stubby stem, you can be more confident that it’s 1962 to roughly 1978 (or 1981), and, hey, that’s a pretty good about of dating specificity to have from just some inches, right?
If, as I’ve observed at least 9 times in the last few weeks, an eBay seller says that the bottle is “roughly 4 inches high” or “roughly 5 inches high,” then you can ask them to measure it precisely, then plug-in the Guerlain Perfumes blog numbers to get a rough time frame for your bottle. No decent seller could or should possibly refuse such a simple, reasonable, and easy request that involves nothing more than them getting out a ruler to measure their item from top to bottom.
If your eyes have glazed over at the technical nature of all this, I’m truly sorry and I also emphasize deeply. It’s a lot of information, and I remember how overwhelmed I was at first when starting to learn all the technical details. So, if you’ve lasted this long and also read everything, Bravo! Even if you’ve skimmed, I’m grateful for your patience. We’re getting to the end. I swear.
SUMMARIES, RESOURCES & eBAY TIPS — KNOWLEDGE IS POWER & DETAILS CAN LEAD TO BARGAINS:
When I was starting out, I summarized the basics of what I had learnt into a few simple rules to help me on eBay. The most minimalistic, nutshell, simplistic guidelines:
- Look for the darkest juice possible (and in the biggest bottle/size that I could afford);
- Look for a solo “Shalimar” label;
- Look for a Marly horse purple box;
- If there was no Marly horse box, look for any purple box even without the logo;
- If there was no purple box of any kind, and if the bottle was shown simply and solely with its outer box, then:
- make sure that outer box was a “Zebra” or zig-zag white/black box, nothing else;
- look for an alphanumeric batch code on the bottle base or the box, then check the Raiders of the Lost Scent’s 2013 Guide to see what year it corresponds to. If there is a sticker on the bottle, look at their Sticker guide instead.
- Avoid all stubby, squat, chunky bottle stems if I wanted to avoid 1980s era bottles.
As I added to my knowledge, I also added to my parameters:
- Acid-etching and paper stickers (that looked like stamps) on the bottom of the bat bottle were very good things;
- the “Rosebud”/Amphora or Parapluie/Umbrella bottles originated in the 1950s, and would be good alternative options as well, so long as I was willing to settle for very small sizes of 15 ml or 7.5 ml, maximum, respectively, and if I was also willing to pay more per “ml” than if I went after the “bat” bottle; and
- brown-and-white presentation boxes for these other bottle styles — the ones that showed animals, men, and the reaping of the harvest — were just as old as the bat bottle’s purple velvet boxes, and, in some cases, had the “Marly horse” logo as well.
From start to finish, there were several resources that I looked at again and again when it came to figuring out the bottles, their history, their design, or their dates. To sum them up:
- The Guerlain Perfumes Blog‘s long and very detailed 2013 article on all Guerlain bottle designs for all concentrations, including all the design styles mentioned here.
- If you’re researching vintage Shalimar parfum solely in its signature bat or urn bottle, the Guerlain Perfumes Blog has copied all the relevant information from the original post into one narrowly focused just on the bat or “Chauve Souris” bottle, and that may be easier for you to navigate because it’s not as long.
- Angelaira’s Vintage Perfumes has a very helpful 2012 article that preceded all the others and that lets you visually compare the stems, base markings, label, and overall look of vintage Shalimar in its bat shape. There are one or two photos of bottles of other Shalimar concentrations as well.
- Raiders of The Lost Scent‘s 2013 Guide applies to all Guerlain fragrances, but focuses almost entirely on the batch codes on their boxes and bottles. It’s most useful for fragrances that come with a box, were produced in the years after 1967, or have codes prior to 1976. It didn’t really help me with fragrances from before 1976 (which is when the batch codes really kicked in), or with the differences between various bottles of Shalimar in terms of its design or look across the years. To be clear, I’m not criticizing them for that at all because that was never the guide’s goal or purpose. There is no better or more precise, helpful resource for the specific dating of bottles post 1976 than this one!
- [UPDATE 11/10: Turn to the Raiders‘ Sticker/Stamp Guide for bottles pre-1967. This one is absolutely fantastic for old parfums/extraits.]
A few brief words on some dates that you may encounter often on eBay. First, if you see “No. 7090” on a box, that is not the batch code! It’s Guerlain’s internal product code for all Shalimar fragrances, across the decades. Think of it like a supermarket’s produce number for bananas versus oranges. Second, if a listing proclaims “1967” as the date of the bottle, don’t believe it. The seller is confusing Guerlain’s legal copyright date on its Zebra boxes with the date when the actual perfume was produced.
For those of you unfamiliar with the legal terms, that just means 1967 was the year in which Guerlain filed papers with the government to protect the look, style, and design of its bottles and boxes. Depending on the country and its laws, copyright can last for 20 years or longer. Guerlain filed another claim in the early to mid 1980s when it changed its Zebra box to its black/gold one. So, if you see a listing for a “1967” bottle, ask for the other numbers on the box or the bottom of the bottle. It should be a mix of letters and numbers, and it will give you the actual date of the perfume.
Changing topics, as my research taught me more and more about bottles and technical details, I began to realise that I needed to keep an open mind about what I saw on eBay and not limit my options. Many of the glitziest, cleanest, best lit, or most eye-catching eBay listings actually turned out not to be such a great deal for the price when the size, age, box, or some other factor was taken into consideration.
In fact, the best deals came from sellers who didn’t really know much about their bottles, who weren’t frequent vintage sellers, or who had rather shoddy looking photos. They were typically the ones who had stumbled across a bottle by accident, who never sold perfume, or who had been left the bottle by a relative. They didn’t know what they had and, often, didn’t seem to care much about it. They simply wanted to get rid of it without going to the trouble of a lot of fancy photos or details. Some of them actually listed their bottles in the wrong section (like, regular Shalimar, not “Vintage” or “parfum”). And they rarely had much information about the bottle beyond, perhaps, its measurement in inches.
All my best Shalimar bargains have come from these sorts of sellers, but it’s because I armed myself first with knowledge about what to look for — which is what I’m hoping this guide will do for you. Keep an open mind about everything that you see on eBay — from bottle photos to what the boxes may look like or the sellers who don’t seem to know what they’re talking about. Don’t focus primarily on sellers who have the best photos or multiple Shalimar listings. These listings may look good on the surface but, if you arm yourself with knowledge, you can get much better deals elsewhere and some of them may end up to be astonishing bargains!
Don’t limit your searches simply to “vintage” Shalimar, either. If a seller doesn’t know what he has, he may well list it as regular, basic “Shalimar” with all the other modern ones. I found one great bottle where the word “vintage” was not mentioned anywhere in either its title listing or in the text description. I passed on a second vintage bottle that was listed with the regular, modern ones because it was too small and it was a similar sort of situation except, this time, the seller said in the description that she’d gotten the bottle from her mother in the 1980s. She never used the word “vintage,” though, so if that is how you are conducting your searches, you could miss out on some options.
It’s a lot like looking for a needle in a haystack at times, but sometimes the haystack shrinks to almost nothing because eBay seems to have availability cycles. I’ve seen it time and time again for vintage fragrances from all sorts of brands; there will be times when there are more than a 100 entries, then times when there are like 10. Two months ago, when I first started looking for really old Shalimar, there were about 125 listings each week for different concentrations of “vintage Shalimar perfume 1 oz.” That was a broad umbrella search which also brought up bottles listed as “1/4 oz,” “1/2 oz”, etc. Out of those, roughly 70-80 would be for the pure parfum, sometimes far more. In fact, there was one seller alone, “vivientreasures,” who had almost 10 different parfum bottles for sale. In contrast, when I plug in the same search today, the combined total is a mere 37, and a number of those listings are for completely empty bottles or for the Parfum de Toilette. So, be patient, it’s feast or famine on eBay, and you may need to wait a few weeks or months to find a bottle that fits your budget.
I’ll share with you several of the different searches that I relied upon so that you have an idea of the words and variations that you might want to consider. A few of my searches overlap in scope, bringing up the same listings, but it’s designed that way to cover the maximum number of options, and you’ll soon get accustomed to scrolling quickly past the ones whose photo or title don’t fit your parameters (too small, too expensive, new label, newer box, clearly modern bottle, etc.):
- Vintage Shalimar perfume 1 oz;
- Vintage Shalimar parfum 2 oz;
- Shalimar Baccarat (limited to actual fragrances, not “collectibles” since the latter pulls up empty bottles or dummy “factice” bottles);
- Shalimar Marly;
- Shalimar Purple Box;
- Shalimar Pure Perfume (not using the word “vintage” broadens the search to cover stuff that someone may not know is actually vintage); and
- Shalimar vintage extrait (parapluie, rosebud, and bat bottles come up).
So, that’s it! We all survived this monster post and the Shalimar marathon! Thank you for your patience. I know it’s a huge amount of information and that the technical aspect of the details was probably quite overwhelming at times. But information is both power and money saved, and once you get the hang of the basics, I think you’ll be whipping through eBay in no time. Nothing would make me happier than if this ridiculously long post helped you to find a great and really old bottle for a good price. Happy hunting!