Front and center or hanging out in corners, these beautiful antique bottles seem to be everywhere I look these days.
Designed originally to transport wine, these bottles were used to carry almost any liquid. They were made in a vast variety of sizes. Older demijohns were all hand-blown, and without the benefit of a mold, the size of the bottles varies with each bottle—each one unique.
Demijohns covered with leather were discovered in ancient underground catacombs in the Tuscany region of Italy and throughout Europe, demijohns have been described as "being around as long as we have." As early as the eighteenth century, advertisements in the U.S. described demijohns as "wickered bottles that will hold liquid."
Demijohns of European origin usually have a globular or ovoid shape.
While American examples tend to be more cylindrical in form.
Other shapes, such as this “loaf bread” form, were made as well.
If you’re concerned with age, look for bottles with a deeper blue tint. In general, the greener the bottle, the newer the bottle (but not always). The type of neck and lip of the bottles can be a good indication of age--a sheared lip is older than a rounded lip and suggests an older process was used in sealing the bottle.
Older bottles tend to have fantastic bubbles and striations throughout the glass. The glass is usually fine and thin and therefore much more fragile than newer examples.
Here are some that have caught my eye lately….
These American (?) examples grouped on a console at Foxglove Antiques really sparked my interest. And then, like the phenomenon that happens when you buy a new car-- before you know it, you’re noticing them everywhere (you know the one?), I began noticing demijohns all over the place…..
From Cote de Texas’ post on "The Octagon Home", designer Tami Owen deftly placed them where the sunlight streaming though the windows would highlight these beauties.
Still in their original wicker jackets, designer Jillian Pritchard Cooke uses demijohns to accessorize a kitchen counter.
Another favorite, Phoebe Howard, places them atop a tall chest. (Not sure if that would work here in earthquake country! )
Here, one has been fitted with lamp workings and a simple shade in keeping with the beachy theme of the room.
Smoky gray is an option if the more traditional blue/green doesn’t suit your palette.
Even Ballard Designs has gotten a piece of the market, offering a variety of sizes with covers that include rope, cane, burlap and metal mesh. You can also purchase the lamp adapter kits through them.
I found this wistful image on flickr. Can anyone please send me the GPS location of this field? I’m dying to rescue them!
Sadly, what led to the “end” of the common usage of demijohns in wine production was, what else, taxes!
The Tariff Act of 1824 imposed a hefty tax on demijohns of twenty-five cents each, making it much more economical for winemakers to package in smaller bottles. Leave it to the government to muck it up again!!
Regardless of whether they are old or new, demijohns are beautiful decorative objects with the size, texture, and color to make a statement in any room.