Wednesday, 13 January 2010

Day 109- An Alchemist & The Druggist

I learned that the world has a soul, and that whoever understands that soul can also understand the language of things. I learned that many alchemists realized their destinies, and wound up discovering the Soul of the World, the Philosopher's Stone, and the Elixir of Life. But above all, I learned that these are all so simple they could be written on the surface of an emerald.
-----The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho

I am an alchemist. I can turn gold into brass. And as The Alchemist in Paulo Coelho's book propounded, I learned that it was "so simple they could be written on the surface of an emerald".

I did start the very next day as promised in my last post. I began with the little porcelain boxes because I thought they were too shiny and new.


I thought how sweet it would be if I could indulge in a bit of alchemy and turn the gold into antique brass. The boxes would then match the rest of my furnishings in this project.

So I took out my acrylic-a dollop of copper bronze, a hint of zinc silver and a fair bit of gunmetal black-and starting mixing. By the way, you do know that brass is an alloy of 1/3 zinc and 2/3 copper? That makes the 2 of us, I didn't either.

I then sand the gold down and collected the dust to make into a ring..alright, I am not that nuts. Anyway, I didn't have metal primer so I skipped that step and started converting the metal.

Half a day later...



A day after the "conversion" and after the paint had dried, I applied a layer of varnish to "fix" the "antique brass". I then tried to carve all this onto an emerald and realized that only Paulo Coelho thought that was simple. I know, groan away...

And on the 3rd Day, I researched. I learned from my copy of Schiffer's "Perfume, Cologne and Scent Bottles" that

During the Victorian and Edwardian periods, colognes and perfumes were most often purchased by the middle and lower class from the local drugstore. The druggist bought scents such as rose, patchouli, lavender and carnation in bulk quantities and then re-packaged them into smaller, home-use containers....Alternatively, the plainer bottles from the drugstore was usually taken home and the contents decanted into something more fashionable like the cameo or cut glass colognes.These bottles were chosen by the mistress of the house as permanent adjuncts to her dressing table and were re-used indefinitely until discarded for something more stylish.

I also found out that for the longest time, perfume boxes remained insignificant and in fact, non-existent until the invention of Eau de Cologne in the 18th century. With the advent of the perfumed sponge, the vinaigrette, a small silver box and a secret hiding place for these sponges, appeared. Other precursors to the perfume box emerged during that time, including the pouncet box and the pomander (see pair in right pic given to me by Helene. Pardon my ignorance, dear, I didn't know they are pomanders until today) .

The packaging for perfume really gained importance in the early 19th century when gifting perfume became popular. Perfume boxes became as important as the fragrance it held.


Perfume boxes are to be found in every shape and form. Where once the bottle was important, now the box stands for something too, particularly for collectors. Antique perfume bottles that come with their original containers are significantly more valuable than their counterparts without.

Collectors believe that some of the loveliest perfume boxes are the Limoges porcelain boxes (click pic to see range from Beauchamp Limoges)

And of course, this means that the Palace must own some of these exquisite boxes of the best parfum, French no less. With a velvet cardboard that came with a key chain gift and some ribbons, I made the box sets tonight (1 3/4" w and 1 1/4"h).

Thanks to some very fine French Eau de Cologne from Mercedes, I think some lucky harem girls will be thrilled if they are gifted with one .

Now, we will have to find the drugstore that sells these...

27 comments:

Ara said...

How wonderful Sans!! You have truely dreamed up something fit for a king! or a Maharaja... or his wife.... haha! All the work you have done it looks very similar to the photos and looks very expensive! Fantastic! hugs, ara

Eva said...

Your perfume boxes are great. Luxorious and pretty. I prefer it also antique with the gold down, much better. Is it the second time that you paint? After cats?
Well done, your are adquiring a lot of skills ;)
Besos

Pubdoll said...

I love your antiquing of the gold and the Eau de Cologne from Mercedes looks so exquisite!
You always astonish me with all your research, and pardon my ignorance Sans, I didn't know they were pomanders until today either :-)

Sans said...

You flatter me so, Ara! I thought maybe the concubines will like them since the box is made with brass plates and not gold. :):) I didn't write that it took me 3 hours the night before looking for the right silky material to line the inside!!! I was looking for the vintage deep purple type (not sure if you know, those kind that lined old jewellery boxes?) I nearly cut the pair of shorts I was wearing because it was the only thing that was purple enough! Good thing I found the velvet cardboard. :) The black also goes well with the bottles, I thought.

Sans said...

Eva, I think it's my magic apron. I could not get the colour right for sometime and then after I put on my apron, I thought of using black (they tell you its antique brass on the bottle, but it never is!!) to mix with antique gold and copper bronze..after a few layers, the gold really turned to brass! Magic !

So happy to hear from a friend that I have improved. Yes, after the cat, this is the 2nd time I have painted. I am so pleased with my progress, I am going to try Indian miniature painting soon! I have even bought the canvas. Paulo Coelho is very good for believing in yourself :).

Sans said...

Helene, I was just thinking if I spend so much time on 1 item, I will never finish a house. Told you this project is growing out of control ! I am going to be 80 before my palace is completed and it may be months before this 1st project is finished :).

By the way, check this link to look at images of pomanders http://images.google.com.sg/images?q=pomander&oe=utf-8&rls=org.mozilla:en-US:official&client=firefox-a&um=1&ie=UTF-8&hl=en&tab=wi&imgtype=i_similar&sa=X&ei=Nx5OS_DGM8GIkAXioJGgDQ&ct=img-sim-l&oi=image_sil&resnum=3&tbnid=XMO3l1e6-E9FoM:&tbo=0 .

Do you know how I know yours are pomanders? They can open!!! Did you know that? Did you accidentally give me a family heirloom? You know you are not getting them back, right ? :)

Pubdoll said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Pubdoll said...

I didn't know they could open, but I have 6 more, I went back and bought more of them to use as hanging garden lights for my summer project.

rosanna said...

You had fun! The Maharanies will be happy with their perfume bottles. Do not hurry, you must have some project to keep us busy when we'll be retired :o)) Hugs Rosanna

Lize said...

What an interesting lesson on perfume, and your perfume box looks lovely! A Treasure which the 'girls' would adore!

Tallulah Belle said...

ohhh splendid...and a nice lesson in perfumery :-)

I have one of those little chests I bought at the dollar store here at Christmas....no idea what i was going to do with it but it was pretty. Mine is white with blue flowers though.

Snowfern said...

uwahh~~!! (expression adopted from Asuka XD)

i'll bet you have little bibs and bobs of packaging and saved items to recycle, hidden away in drawers or boxes, ready to be upcycled, right? hee hee so inventive and what great results!! those are some lucky palace girls, how lovely they must smell too ^ ^

(and i LOL'd hard at the conversion of gold to brass XD)

Sans said...

Helene, because they open, you can fix the bulb real easy. They are perfect lamp shades and look great in a bunch. Very Moroccan or in my case, Indian :).

Sans said...

O, I don't know, Rosanna, this hobby is competing with many other interests, one of them is travelling :) (sending you an email soon) ! and maybe even love life, lose weight, reading. O , I forgot, work too! Doing a reply during office hours! Again!

But I must say I am enjoying this whole process of creating minis very much. It encompasses so many aspects of a person's skills and really test you if you stretch it. It is very hard to ever be bored with this. You may however need to take a break once in a while because it does take quite a lot out of you if you want to be good.

I am just thinking as I make this post how far I have come from the 1st minis I made in 2009. Back then, I did not even know how to take pictures and then resize it smaller so that I can load it! :):)

As you get better, it is so tempting to junk the old ones you made and redo everything. I will have enough to keep me occupied
3 lifetimes I think. Always wish I have started crafting earlier.

Victoria said...

Very, very interesting reading. I love such details. Thank you, Sans!

Sans said...

Thank you Lize ! :) Amazing, isn't it that years later, the Egyptians, Indians and Arabs still sell perfume the same way? When I was Dubai/ Abu Dhabi, I didn't see any traditional perfume houses. Do they still have those?

Sans said...

Arghhhhh, Jayne, you got those boxes in a Dollar shop? Shucks! I knew I overpaid for them. I found these in a craft store at a mall and they cost me 10 times more. I got a dollar discount for one of them because it could not open properly ..lol! That's the one I made into the box set, so it is permanently half open. Sounds like yours is a blue and white? Will work well in an oriental setting. Or Victorian.

Sans said...

Cindy, I get so so frustrated when I am looking for things sometime. I have waaaaayyyy too many bits and pieces and am not very organised with them. They are all in paper boxes and although I try to label them, I still need to look at all the boxes to find where what is. I have so many caps , plastic cups junk that I have to stop collecting them now. Of course, right after you decide to stop, the thing you threw away yesterday is exactly what you need the next day. I also forget what I bought although I list all my purchases. After a while, I can't remember what is it I describe as "star silver beads with daisies side "!! LOL! How do you organise your stuff?

My girls smell nice only when they don't get dust on their face which is every few days! haha

Sans said...

Victoria, thanks :) You and me both. Comments like yours make me feel like my research is worth the effort.

Although, sometimes I do let my imagination get the better of me (not this post though, the research is real :) ) so I guess there are times when you shouldn't believe everything I write..haha!

Snowfern said...

*sneezes after sniffing your girls*

well, i totally understand the dilemma you're facing! frankly, i've stopped 'harbouring' stuff unless i -know- i'm going to use it straightaway. that way, there's motivation to start on the items, or, i tell myself to first use up whatever i have > <

there is no organization here. just organized mess, i.e. i know where everything is, kinda XD i think if you see how i keep my stuff, you'd be mortified (i see how pristine and beautiful your craft room is! JEALOUS MUCH!!!!)

contar said...

I like muchisimo his(its,her) boxes of perfume, and assurance that in his(its) project they stay of luxury.
His(its,her) works are incredible.


me gustan muchisimo sus cajas de perfume, y seguro que en su proyecto quedan de lujo.
sus trabajos son increibles.

Eva J said...

Hello
Thank you for your kind comments on my blogg - and I just want to
let you know that I agree with all
the others - the perfumes and the box are lovely.
I don´t know if I dare
tell you, but mee too I have a box
like that - mine has a picture of
two angels on it! Perfectly shabby! I shall keep quiet about
the price, but it was not expensive! (lol)

Eva J

Sans said...

Cindy, I too made the same decision, don't keep unless I need it straightaway! Definitely those that I have already dozens of, like caps, toilet paper core etc etc.

I hide my mess which makes looking for stuff and then keeping everything again hell. lol

Sans said...

Contar, I am a "she" lol. I think that's what you meant? I guess in your language you use different terms for different gender?

I really treasure your comments and feedback :).

Sans said...

O Eva J, tell me tell me tell me :):). I think if I am a little patient, I would have found it in at a cheaper place as well. These boxes came with paper boxes that the girl at the store made herself so maybe he charges a bit more :).

I am a little surprise that so many of us have these boxes. At least 4 people here. Will be so fun to see what everyone uses it for. If yours was posted, please let me know where I can see it :).

So funny that I should pay more for this (S$9 each) because I usually get things cheap here as compared to Europe or the States :).

Perfume Bottles said...

Nice post, finding a good perfume is not a difficult job, but finding a perfume in antique bottle is quite difficult.

Sans said...

I checked your website and see that you are a perfume seller :). Thank you for leaving a comment here. I am thrilled that my little post is of interest to you. I have chanced upon old perfume in antique bottles before and I must say, I almost always threw away the perfume. LOL..now I don't know whether I should have kept everything intact. It's just that smelling those perfume just gives me a headache!

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