This Post is from Diane of Dragonfly Scent Me. She has an amazing collection of vintage perfumes, many of which she sells samples of on eBay, as well a lot of other great fragrances, and she has graciously agreed to share her knowledge about vintage and how to spot a factice with us all, plus a bonus tip at the end!
Many of us have been there……you see an amazing vintage bottle of perfume you have been waiting months to show up on that wonderful place of bargains and hard to find items ~ Ebay ~ only to receive the bottle & find out the juice is water or alcohol & you have a factice or simply an empty beautiful bottle. Your heart sinks and knots form in your stomach. You feel angry….ripped off…duped…by these sellers that count on the fact that the buyers don’t know any better. But more often then not, sellers aren’t educated on what a factice or Dummy bottle is. Now, factices can be very collectible and very valuable, but to the perfume junkie looking for that next fix of pure parfum heaven….a factice is a huge letdown. So having learned the hard way and having been on the receiving end of factices both due to blatant deceit or oversight on the seller’s part, I’d like to take a moment and write up a guide on to how to spot a factice and what to ask sellers to find out if the bottle you’re drooling over is indeed a factice.
First off, all factices should be listed in the collectible bottles section as they are not perfume. However……perfume may be listed in the collectible bottles category as the seller may be focusing on the value of the bottle which happens to have its original contents. Most honest sellers who are selling an Empty bottle or factice will often fill the bottle with colored liquid to show off the beauty of the bottles…facets, etching, etc….and most of these sellers do 2 things that help you know right away they are selling an EMPTY — bright colored water that looks nothing like perfume (purple, blue, green and red) and they openly state the bottle is empty and is filled with colored water for display purposes only. OK, of course this is easy…..you have a good seller who knows not to dupe people. But what about the seller who adds a perfect amber color liquid the exact same shade as that of the perfume and never says its NOT perfume, or never says it is filled with water, alcohol and not the original contents of the bottle? Here are some guides to actual factual perfume.
First of all, look for discoloration around the stopper and neck of bottle. If the bottle looks pristine and incredibly clean, it is most likely a factice. Vintage perfumes, due to the oils, often discolor the inside neck of the bottle and stopper and leaves residue even if its still sealed!! If the stopper and neck are perfectly clear clean glass, this might be a hint it’s a factice.
I can not stress enough ~ Ask questions, ask questions and ask more questions about the item you’re interested in. The seller should be happy to answer any and all questions openly and honestly. If not, you’ve got trouble on your hands. The first question to ask each and every time, if the bottle is not sealed IS: “Is this the original contents of the bottle, or did you put in colored water or alcohol in the bottle to showcase it?” This question is especially helpful if the perfume is listed in the collectible bottles category as opposed to the perfume category. This question will help you avoid the con artists out there. This happened to me. The seller NEVER said it WAS perfume but also never revealed the bottle was filled with colored water added to about 1 ml of perfume left in the bottle, and it was the exact color of the perfume. This was a pure case of deception, and I got my money back through Paypal, but it took a great deal of effort. Of course, if someone is out to scam you and they don’t answer honestly you can still be duped but hopefully the rest of the clues and questions will help avoid buying a factice or an empty.
If the bottle listed is sealed with the original contents the next question to ask is: “Is the word factice or dummy labeled, etched, or scratched into the bottle?” A Dummy or factice will always be labeled as such — usually in a manner that’s impossible to remove. Many bottles havee etched or scratched into the glass the word DUMMY or the word FACTICE. The most common places are the back of the bottle, side of the bottle or the bottom of the bottle. However (here’s one that threw me), vintage Guerlain & Balenciaga bottles are often marked dummy on the back of the label that is on the front of the bottle. The only way to see the word dummy is by looking through the back of the bottle and seeing the back of the label on the front of the bottle. This would be easy for anyone, seller or otherwise, to overlook. If the pictures on the auction aren’t clear or are not close up, ask the seller, “What does the stopper look like where it goes in the bottle? Is there any discoloration or residue there or is it pristine & clean?” Water and alcohol will not leave residue or discolor the bottle in any way as it is free of oils.
I once received a sealed factice Guerlain Baccarat bottle — Yep an honest to goodness Baccarat Stamped bottle — that was also a dummy and said so only on the back of the label glued to the front of the bottle. The seller had no idea the bottle was a dummy and neither did I until i got the bottle, which, by the way, prompted me to write this article — hoping you won’t have to make the same mistakes I have. So ask the seller if the word dummy or factice can be seen through the back of the bottle on the back of the label.
Now, I once received a Guerlain factice sealed with a Baccarat stamp on the bottom of the bottle. Probably worth a heck of a lot of money but I wanted the PERFUME….WAH!!! It was the original contents and the seller had no idea this was a factice, and neither did I, until i got the bottle and happened to see throught the perfume looking at the back of the bottle there was dummy on the label facing the back of the bottle. Had I asked more questions of the seller I might have realized this was a factice and could have saved the seller and myself time. They truly had no idea the bottle was a factice and happily took the bottle back. I will buy from this seller any day of the week!! The seller was Justeclecta2. All sellers should be as accommodating & honest as they are!
Another clue to vintage scents is perfume color and the issue of “floaters.” If there seems to be floaters in the bottle, it is a good sign. In vintage parfum bottles, floaters are excellent evidence the contents are actually perfume, not water or alcohol. The oils often thicken due to age and evaporation. The fragrance congeals a bit leaving small oil balls in the juice. This doesn’t always happen though, so a lack of floaters does not mean the juice isn’t parfum. Also, very old parfums almost always darken in color sometimes to a black pitch. This is a whole other vintage issue to explore, but if it’s a really old scent that has been discontinued for a long time, often the juice will not be the original color but slightly darker. If it looks likes its new it may be a factice since the colored juice will not change shade. Again….ask if dummy or factice is anywhere on the bottle and seen by looking at the back of the label. Ask the seller, “Please shake the bottle a bit….is there any residue or dark floaters in the bottle?” Don’t worry if there isn’t, but it does happen sometimes. So if there is, you know its not water. If there isn’t floaters you need to ask more questions.
Another important question to ask the seller, “is there any scent?” Of course YOU CAN’T smell the bottle but the seller can. Even if a bottle is sealed and never been opened, there will be the perfume’s scent at the stopper of the bottle. A factice has no scent of course. I have many sealed parfum bottles, and they all smell of the parfum. Even my Givenchy Le De, which is a very mild light parfum and\not very old, has a scent at the stopper. A factice will smell like nothing at all. Nothing, nada! The only time there may not be scent emanating around the stopper is if it has a wax or paper seal……which brings me to my last point. I have yet to see a factice with the stopper sealed with wax or paper. Why wax seal a bottle that has no valuable contents? Right!
So in summary:
- Ask the seller outright if the contents are original….if so….ask where they got the bottle…..Ask if they put water or alcohol in the bottle
- Ask if it’s marked dummy anywhere on the bottle, including on the secret spot ~ the back of the label seen through the back of the bottle
- Look for a paper or wax seal…..a cord isn’t good enough. often factices will have been sealed to look like a new unopened bottle but not sealed with paper or wax which protects from leakage & air getting in the bottle
- If the bottle is not sealed with wax paper or wax ask if it has a scent around the stopper
- Look for discoloration around the neck & stopper of the bottle….if none it may be a factice
- Look for darkened juice and possibly floaters.
- Hope these tips will help make your vintage searches more successful
Added tip for how to get a stuck stopper out — Run the neck of the bottle where the stopper goes in with the hottest water you can…be careful not to wet the label, you wouldn’t want to damage it. Next, hold the bottle UPRIGHT with a towel & using a hair dryer as close to the glass as it will get — it can even touch the glass — blow dry the neck of the bottle. You want to make sure you blow dry the the whole neck but each spot should be maintained for a while, up to 30 seconds, and then turn the bottle a bit & continue. Using a towel or cloth, gently try to turn the stopper as you also pull up a bit. Remember…..stopper is frickin hot….so don’t burn your hands. If the stopper is not loose, use a bit of rubbing alcohol around the stopper. You can use a pipette to get alcohol all around the stopper. Blow dry again. I have yet to have a bottle that defied the blow dryer….