Vintage Fragrance: Open or Save?

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Erica Golding

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Hello everyone! I hope you are enjoying a lovely day so far.

Recently, the subject of vintage perfume came up in one of my fragrance forums. We started chatting about a vintage, rare Guerlain parfum in like-new condition, with full presentation intact. The opinion shared was that the bottle should be displayed and protected in a museum.

I completely understand the sentiment of keeping something precious in mint unopened condition and keeping it in that state forever, but I have to admit that I have an opposing gut reaction when applying this sentiment to perfume. I feel bad for a lonely pristine bottle the same way that I would feel bad for a stuffed animal who will never snuggle with a child.

Vintage Fragrance: Open or Save?

Perfume is created to be enjoyed, to be an ephemeral glimmer of gold. Preservation of a vintage perfume, in my opinion, is simply a gift passed to a future generation that will hopefully still have the nerve to apply it on their skin. It would break my heart to see precious beauty forever sealed in a bottle, never to harmonize with a wearer’s chemistry and bathe them in sensual pleasure.

Additionally, many perfume components break down or spoil over time. How long should a bottle linger in a UV-shielded glass case, never inhaled, never loved? As it sits there untouched, the potential grandeur within is slowly fading, withering, dying. Centuries later, the liquid inside will mutate and expire, useless and worth nothing. Who was this beauty saved for then? Who would have been worthy of its marvelous dazzle while there was still time? Why don’t we consider ourselves good enough to be the perfume’s ultimate owner and lover?

I am a breaker of seals and a splasher of time capsules. When I score a vintage fragrance, no matter how rare or valuable it is, I do open it and wear it. I’m respectful of my aged perfumes – I am careful to preserve their purity as best as I can, using a sanitary pipette and closing it up securely, storing away from heat and light. But you won’t catch me hoarding something special for a rainy day!

These are just my thoughts and opinions. What do you think? There are no wrong answers here!

Until next time,

Love and light,

Erica

18 thoughts on “Vintage Fragrance: Open or Save?

  1. I am with you, perfume should be worn and enjoyed. You can always enjoy the pretty box and bottle, even refill it with coloured water after it’s gone to give an intact visual effect.

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  2. Hey Erica,
    I do both. For me there is enjoyment in the having as much as in the wearing. If I have a decant or bottle of something already on the hob then I will happily leave a brand new collectable sealed. I also have some that the seal;ed is so exciting I can’t bring myself to open it when I know it wouldn’t get the wear it deserves.
    All the rest though I open and use as if they are available at the local chemist, life’s too short.
    Portia xx

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  3. I’m 57, with an unexpected chronic illness. In 2016 I went to bed one night and woke up 2 days later on a table in the emergency room with a bunch of doctors trying to start an IV in my neck (kidney failure) Once I could have thoughts again none of them were regrets about having opened my precious vintages. If one buys as an investment I guess that’s a way to go. I love these fragrances. I grew up with ‘vintages’ and now that I’m housebound and unable to do most of the things my healthy body allowed me to do, I can and do still get huge pleasure and comfort from my vintages. I was mentored by a wealthy perfumista in the late 70s who introduced me to perfumes I’d never have known otherwise. She was in her late 60s and was of a mind that we only get today for sure, and should live like it. I agree.
    It’s still always hard to open something amazing like a 58ml 1967 Chant d’Aromes flacon, but I wear my perfumes and just haven’t figured out a way to keep them sealed *and* enjoy them. I love extraits and have many splashes in general, so I decant useable amounts and keep the source bottles boxed (and everything wrapped w parafilm and Teflon tape) in a dark, cold closet. That’s kept my perfumes almost entirely wearable for 20 – 50 years. I have a couple of young vintage lover friends that I mentor and pass some things on to as my employer did with me 40 years ago. I’m slowly starting to sell some of my ridiculous amount of backups but the amount of facing mortality in that seems to have me moving very slowly. So to each their own. I’m wearing some beautifully woody 1970 Vol de Nuit extrait this morning and my cats think I smell great, what more could I ask. =)

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  4. When I spend a fortune to buy a vintage perfume of my choice then I will wear it till the people around me pray for mercy. I bought it for the smell, not the bottle.

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  5. I’m with you, Erica. I know there are some who see perfume as an art form and imo it is but only to a certain extent, it’s much more an intimate personal care experience. Paintings, sculpture, music can survive endlessly but perfume is meant to be worn.

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  6. I’m an opener! I scored two Shalimar par avion bottles unopened ’60s early, pristine, the juice a lovely molasses. I opened one (still have the other): heaven. Just out of this world. I also scored at an estate sale four (4!) Chanel 5s, and sold one because it’s not my absolute fav, but opened one of the remaining—fabulous. I love vintage– and I’m going to live it up now before I become too vintage myself to enjoy it.

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  7. Saving perfume is like framing your piece of birthday cake – not what we’re supposed to do with it. We should enjoy each sensory experience as it was intended to be enjoyed – they’re not meant to last forever.

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  8. I would definitely open the bottle and wear the fragrance. I couldn’t bear having a precious fragrance sitting in the cupboard and not knowing what it smells like. That would be worse than not having it at all.

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  9. One of the things I love about perfume is that it’s so ephemeral: its beauty exists only as it’s destroyed, evaporating on warm skin and shifting and changing and unraveling around us and finally vanishing. It’s an experience in time, that can’t be stopped. That only delivers its beauty when its freed to live for those minutes or hours.

    So, I’m with you: I’m all for opening it and enjoying it.

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  10. Open it and use it. My mum recently found a forgotten bottle (40+ years old) of a favorite fragrance in a cupboard. She’s using it as room spray in her dressing room. She doesn’t like to wear perfume on her person anymore but does enjoy smelling the scent in the air.

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  11. I’m torn on this issue. I have acquired a few unopened vintage bottles over the years. In a lot of cases I’ll refrain from opening them, mostly because the perfume is of a rare or historical nature. If they’ve already been opened I’ll go for it, but there is something in me that says “once you open this, you cannot unopen it”.

    This decision is made easier for me because nearly all of my unopened treasures are women’s perfumes. If I opened them I’d never use them up, and then what? In my view it’s better for me to hang onto these treasures until I no longer get a buzz out of them, and then move them on, still unopened, to a connoisseur that will get the full value from opening it and using the contents.

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  12. I’m with the majority in this topic.

    For me perfume doesn’t make any sense unless I enjoy wearing it.
    I still have an empty bottle of my first perfume love. Would I have enjoyed it more had it still be full and sealed? Only in terms if I could open and wear it now. Otherwise, empty after I used it up and enjoyed, it means for me not less, probably even more then it would have otherwise.

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