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A heartbreaking and romantic tool utilized during the mourning period? Or just some really beautiful garbage? We'll let you decide!
Victorians were famously known for their in-depth mourning practices -- from stopping clocks at the time of death to wearing all black for an extended period of time and fashioning a lock of the deceased's hair into jewelry or memorial art.
However, some mourning rituals were, unfortunately, more fiction than fact. The use of lachrymatories being one of them.
The story goes that during the Civil War, grieving women would catch their tears in glass vials called lachrymatory bottles or "tear catchers." The amount of tears captured were used to gauge the length of the mourning process. Once the tears evaporated from the vial, the grieving period was over.
While the romantic in us loves the thought of using these beautiful bottles to capture our sorrow, many historians and scholars agree that Victorian tear catchers do not exist. Or if they did exist, the process was not well documented. But we can still dream, right?
Often mistaken for tear catchers, the true identity of these bottles may be a little less romantic and a little more utilitarian.
Primarily made in England and Bohemia and utilized from the late 18th century to the late 19th century, these decorative, hand-painted gilt and enamel glass vials were known as throwaway scent bottles because they were designed to be thrown away once empty.
The equivalent of a modern day to-go box, these expensive bottles would be used by a lady of means to transport her custom scents from the perfumer to her home where she would then decant the fragrance into her personal perfume bottles and toss the vial away.
This striking specimen is one of the more popular designs in throwaways. Crafted in clear glass, this bottle features 6 thumbprints or molded indents -- 3 on each side -- and is decorated with traditional, hand painted gold gilt crosshatches and striped oval patterns. It comes with its original glass stopper.
We'll leave it up to you whether you want to keep your scents or your tears in there (but we say, tears).
Date: 19th century
Materials: Glass, gold gilt
Measurements: 6 3/4" x 1/2" x 1/2"
Condition: Very Good
Light wear to the gold gilt in a few spots, but in remarkable shape considering its age. Still smells of perfume.
Cleaning and Care
Wipe gently with a damp, soft cloth if necessary. Take extra care not to remove the gilt.