Not everyone understands Adriane Johnson’s passion for perfume.
The Buffalo Grove resident loves to wear different scents, which she chooses based on her mood or her plans for the day.
But fragrance is only part of her perfume passion. Johnson also owns a collection of more than 200 perfume bottles and serves on the board of an international perfume organization.
Johnson said her interest in perfume bottles began when she was a child.
“My grandmother and my aunt always had a dressing table with doilies and perfume bottles,” she said.
She began collecting special bottles after she received a bottle of Giorgio perfume, along with a miniature bottle of the same fragrance, as a gift more than 30 years ago.
She had added just a few bottles to her collection when she came across a yard sale in Evanston. When Johnson noticed there were a number of nice items for sale, but didn’t see any perfume bottles, she asked the resident whether she had any. The woman led her to the attic, where she revealed her own collection of 50 bottles.
Johnson offered to purchase the entire collection, but the owner said she couldn’t part with them. She then invited Johnson to choose a single bottle, which she gave her for free. That bottle, which has a large stopper in the shape of a sunflower, was the sixth bottle in Johnson’s collection, and it remains among her favorites today.
That woman helped set Johnson’s direction for her collection.
“I don’t just collect to be collecting. I’m very particular,” said Johnson, who hopes to write a book about her passion. It will include a chapter about the Evanston resident who influenced her so many years ago.
“I want to meet her one day. I think she really influenced my collection. I don’t want hundreds of bottles. I want to buy what I like,” Johnson said.
Johnson said she is especially fond of bottles from the art deco era or modern ones designed in the art deco style. She’s also a fan of hand-painted bottles. Among her favorites is a limited-edition bottle painted by Sophie Matisse. The great-granddaughter of artist Henri Matisse collaborated with Kilian Hennessy to produce only 50 painted bottles for his By Kilian fragrance line in 2008. Johnson’s bottle is number 18.
Many of her bottles are much older, though, and information about their origins isn’t immediately available.
“Every time I get a perfume bottle, I like to conduct research. I like to know the history of it and the origin,” Johnson said.
The collectors' club
It was while researching the origin of a particular bottle that Johnson stumbled upon the International Perfume Bottle Association. She joined the association in 2005.
Until then, “I didn’t know there were other people like me,” she said. “This was the best thing that could have happened to me, finding like-minded people. Most people are like, ‘Adriane, the perfume is gone, throw out the bottle.’”
The International Perfume Bottle Association was established in 1988. Its mission is to provide information about perfume bottles, promote collecting and offer fellowship opportunities for its members. Johnson is among more than 1,000 members from 20 countries.
For the past two years, she has served as the organization’s publications chair. In that role, she writes articles for the association’s Perfume Bottle Quarterly magazine, which she also edits. The publication includes stories about collectors and coveted perfume bottles.
The International Perfume Bottle Association hosts an annual convention that features perfume bottle auctions, vendors, speakers, experts who provide information about specific bottles, seminars and trips to antique shops.
“Perfume bottle collectors love, love, love going to antique shops,” said Johnson, who will travel to Las Vegas in May for this year’s convention.
The auctions held during the annual convention get competitive among members who have their eyes on particular perfume bottles. Johnson said she saw a 1929 perfume bottle with its original box sell for $63,000.
Values are based on a number of factors, such as a bottle’s rarity, condition, whether it has its original packaging and whether perfume — known by collectors as “juice” — remains inside.
“If the original juice is in the bottle, no matter how it looks or smells, the value is higher,” Johnson explained.
“I started off (collecting) because I love the bottles, the art. But now that I’m getting older and wiser, I see it as an investment, too.”
Looking for the Rolls Royce of perfumes
Johnson looks for bottles at estate sales and garage sales, and also purchases new commercial bottles when she likes the design or the fragrance. Her collection includes bottles made from blown glass and colored glass; bottles with modern spray mechanisms, atomizers and stoppers; and bottles with many kinds of embellishments.
Many of the bottles were gifts, and some came from friends who purchased them in different countries. Each bottle in Johnson’s collection evokes an emotion or a memory, she said.
“I know the history of my collection, who gave it to me, how it made me feel,” she said.
With a collection of more than 200 bottles, Johnson said her collection is nearly complete. She’s keeping her eyes peeled for a Marcel Guerlain perfume bottle shaped like a 1920s Rolls Royce grille. Wheels flank the bottle’s stand.
The bottle is rare, and on the only opportunity Johnson has had to bid on one, it sold to another collector for $10,000. “I have a limit,” she said.
“That’s the bottle that I really want,” said Johnson, who already knows just where she’ll display it. “Then my collection might be complete.”
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