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Collecting

The art of collecting can be fun and inspiring. In this section we will review the basics of collecting lachrymatories or tear bottles and provide some tips on getting started. Please keep in mind that these guidelines are meant to get you started, but be sure to research thoroughly before spending any money.

There are many reasons to begin collecting lachrymatory: a desire to own a piece of history, a passion for beautiful objects, and some of us are simply inclined to collect. Whatever your motivation, tear bottles are an intriguing collectable.

The first consideration for your collection will be the type of items you wish to collect. New or old, handmade or manufactured, rare or affordable. Each approach to collecting involves different risks and opportunities.

The next challenge is to find actual tear bottles. Most sellers are actually offering perfume or snuff bottles. The difficulty is made worse by the uncertainty of how the ancient bottles were really used. There are two distinctions I’ve found for “true” tear bottles.

  1. The stopper will be designed for an excellent seal (sometimes permanent) and won’t have a perfume applicator or snuff spoon (see the similar artifacts page). Most 19th century Victorian bottles seem to have a wax or cork seal (wax to preserve tears and cork to allow evaporation).
  2. The sizes of bottles in the line will be limited to a reasonable range for holding tears. For example, the miniature Egyptian perfume bottles might be passable as lachrymatories, but the line of bottles goes up to 500 ml. A 6 to 8 inch bottle is simply too large for a practical lachrymatory. Unfortunately, anyone can call any bottle a tear bottle (from a marketing standpoint). Two to 4 inches tall is typical (depending on the neck length). One half inch is the shortest and 4 inches is the tallest I've seen for anything other than a group grieving ceremony at which the tears of many are combined.

Check out the design of the bottle, what other bottles are made by the same company or source, and the type of cap or seal. 

Where do I start?

I've assembled a few pages to help you through the process of starting your collection. Start with Pricing, then use the Next button at the bottom of the page or the navigation button on the upper left to work through the various pages.

Good Luck and enjoy!

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Last modified: 05/22/08