A vinaigrette is a small portable decorative box that would hold a scent behind a grille. These personalized hinged boxes could fit in your hand or be able to hang comfortably from a chain, and became popular for travel in the Georgian and the Victorian- Regency eras. Today these boxes look like lockets or can be worn as pendants, but sometimes when opened up you can still find an antique sponge with its original vinegar scent inside!
Vinaigrettes come in various sizes and shapes, and the grilles inside of each are all unique. Some of the grilles are quite elaborate, with intricate flower and leaf ornamentation, or perhaps with a gold wash, and always punctured for release of the perfume. Behind the grille one would carry a sponge soaked in an aromatic vinegar (hence the name), or a scent of choice that would not only hide any uncomfortable street smells but could also serve as an intimate perfume or a smelling salt to arouse consciousness. Similar to the ancient pomander, pounce box, or the snuff box, these beautiful little objects became part of everyday rituals to enhance the quality of life.
Vinaigrettes were not only beautiful personal decorative ornaments that women would wear around the body to cover smells, but they were also a sign of social status especially amongst the wealthy gentlemen. Women would wear them on their chatelaines, or around the neck, and men could attach them to pocket chains. Concern with sanitation as well as personal grooming were things that only the highest in social ranking could contemplate, therefore the vinaigrettes were often made of sterling silver and shown off as a fashion accessory. Pleasant smells were also said to guard against diseases, and when housed in beautiful jewelry could potentially attract a soul-mate!
At Kirsten’s Corner we have vinaigrettes from the 1830s that have hand-etched lines of swirling motifs; front, back and inside of the vinaigrette has been etched, complete with the monogram of the original owner of the Georgian era. We have a Victorian vinaigrette that could be a lovely locket, engine turned and embellished with a hand-engraved scrolling floral motif. On the front, there is a belted-buckle engraving, which elegantly surrounds a cartouche that is ready for a monogram.
The vinaigrettes have traces of the past. They are treasure boxes that have become splendid little works of art. All sides of the boxes are activated with hand etched design and undulating edges against sharp lines. The grills have a variety of yellow tones from gold wash, with filigree work and all kinds of unique and remarkable designs. Some are made with bales ready to hang. The vinaigrettes are a unique fashion statement, ready to add to any chain of your choice. Perfect for picking your favorite essential oil and introduce to your everyday wear.