Stylebook Snapshot: Perfume bottle convention coming to Pittsburgh

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Perfume is a thing of beauty -- and for collectors, so are the bottles it comes in.

Twenty-six years ago, the International Perfume Bottle Association was founded in Las Vegas to give those who swoon for perfume and other vanity items a place to share their passions and learn from other collectors.

Thursday through next Sunday, hundreds from across the globe will gather at the Wyndham Grand Pittsburgh hotel, Downtown, for the group's annual convention (titled "Bottles that 'Steel' Your Heart" in honor of the Steel City) -- the first to be held in Pittsburgh.

About 1,000 members from around the world make up the association. It also includes nine regional chapters and a group in the United Kingdom. In 2009, a youth collectors division was introduced for ages 7-18, and today it has more than 20 members.

The annual convention is a chance for collectors to browse others' finds and to network with fellow enthusiasts. It moves about the country each year. Convention chair Deborah Washington sought out Pittsburgh for this week's event because of the region's rich glass history. And the commemorative pin created for the occasion? A Steelers-themed perfume bottle marked with "IPBA Pittsburgh 2014."

Many of the bottles that will be featured are just as unique, says vice president Teri Wirth. Perfume bottles typically are divided into two categories -- commercial and noncommercial -- and then into narrower classifications based on their era, type of glass, design or other traits.

"Everybody has different ways that they collect," she says. "Some people concentrate on a particular type. I collect whatever makes my heart skip a beat and just can't go home without."

Her collection holds about 300 bottles. "Some people have thousands," she says.

The public will have the chance to view thousands of them and other vanity-related pieces such as compacts at an auction from 5 to 11 p.m. Friday and at a pre-auction preview from 3 to 5 p.m. Ken Leach, author of "Perfume Presentation: 100 Years of Artistry," will direct the auction, and Nicholas Dawes of "Antiques Roadshow" will serve as auctioneer. A couple of years ago, a very rare bottle sold for about $65,000, Ms. Wirth says. Others at the auction are priced more conservatively in the $100 range.

For those interested in starting their own collections, a free Collecting Perfume Bottles 101 session will be open to the public from 2:15 to 3:15 p.m. Saturday. Attendees will learn the basics of collecting and receive information on how to get started.

After the workshop they'll receive free access to the exhibit hall of vendors showcasing more bottles from 3 to 6 p.m. The public also can stop in that afternoon or 10 a.m.-noon next Sunday for $5.

Nonmembers also can purchase tickets to attend the luncheon at 11:30 a.m. Saturday, when Heinz History Center museum division director Anne Madarasz will give the keynote speech.

In between these sessions, association members will be taking in the sights of Pittsburgh with a tour of local churches with Tiffany glass windows and a visit to Fallingwater.

For more information, visit Email or call Ms. Wirth at 1-407-973-0783 to register for public events.

For more from PG style editor Sara Bauknecht, check out the PG's Stylebook blog at Follow her on Twitter @SaraB_PG.

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