These curious and colourful bottles with birdlike tops are rich in history. Their texture, branding artwork and sculptural spout makes them a desirable decorative collectible.
In 1773 Jacob Schwepps started selling carbonated water.
The siphon was invented in 1829 in France. What began as a water purification system (carbonation kills germs) became a celebration of accessible potable water as part of every-day living.
Seltzer bottles were delivered locally to European and American homes, bistros, bars and hotels during the early 20th Century. They were carbonated and could retain their fizz even after some water had been dispensed using the lever on the top.
Siphons were very much part of everyday life in old Paris as found in in historical records from the Haussmann era (mid-late 19th Century), in the bistros of Montmartre and the Grand Boulevards of Paris.
The design is an embodiment of the vision of engineers from the Age of Enlightenment and later alongside the industrial, social and economic developments of the 19th and 20th century.
It is easy to see how these attractive bottles are sought-after decorative pieces.
Siphons were made in a range of sizes, the most common being pint and half pint (also known as a demi or 'send-up' as they were sent up to hotel guests for room service).
Many Siphons à eau de Seltz have been lovingly restored, collected and displayed in museums and in the kitchens of homes across the world.
They are usually branded with acid etching or ACL (applied colour label) and come in cobalt blue, turquoise, apricot pink, yellow, bright green, emerald green and clear which were often related to the brand or flavour of the drink. Bright green Vaseline glass bottles (or uranium glass) glow under UV light and are a sought-after type. Pink is also somewhat rare, as are the smaller models. Apply some white shoe polish to the etching to emphasize the carved decorative label.
History from the French book La fabuleuse épopée des siphons à eau de Seltz, Frédéric Nortier, 2018
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Images via Chez Pluie, Decoration Retro, Pinterest