For many hundreds of years, long before today’s proper sanitation conditions were the norm, ladies of refinement often wore around their neck or wrist, or occasionally as earrings, small vessels filled with cloth soaked in perfume. These aromatic vessels would help mask the unsavory odors that emanated from open sewers, horse-drawn buggies ... and even other people. Milady would keep such an item on her person so she could quickly flood her olfactory sense with a pleasant fragrance; the delicate, variously perforated containers that released the fragrance were called vinaigrettes.
These remain quite collectible, even today. The simple egg-shaped enamel version, worn as a pendant, was made in Austria in the 1880s. If not for a couple of chips in the enamel, it would be worth over $1,000. The round, filligreed silver box was made in Mumbai, India, in the 1930s, and is worth less than $100. The most common are tiny Georgian-period sterling silver boxes made in 18th- to 19th-century England that command from $200-$5,000, depending on the maker. Versions made in 18K gold are quite coveted and typically bring $500-$1,000. The rare 18k gold music box with enamel scene, left, will bring as much as $25,000. Do you have an antique vinaigrette or other piece of historical significance to sell? We are always buying and make complimentary house calls.