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Antique Bottle Colors

Color is very important when classifying bottles. This page provides info and many examples of the different color names used to identify antique bottles.

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Examples Ingredients Irradiated Recolored Misc

Some of the typical color terms used for identifying bottles are amber (brown), aqua (light blue-green tint), puce (purple), straw (yellow), strawberry puce (amethyst with strong pink tendancies), emerald green, black glass (very, very dark olive green), and more.

Aqua and clear colors were quite common for most bottles (except poisons). Clear is rare for embossed poisons. Amber and black are rare colors for fruit jars. Cobalt blue is rare for flasks.

Color rarity has a tremendous impact on the value of a bottle. While a historical flask may be worth $100 in the common aqua coloration, the exact same bottle but in amber or cobalt blue will be worth several thousand dollars.

Bottle Colors

Cottage Ink in Aqua Green

Aqua Green
Cottage Ink

McDonald Steam System Poison in Aqua Blue

Aqua Blue
McDonald Steam System Poison

Scroll Flask with iron pontil in Ice Blue

Ice Blue
Scroll Flask with iron pontil

CARTERs Cathedral Master Ink in Light Cobalt

Light Cobalt or
Cornflower Blue
CARTERs Cathedral Master Ink

I. SUTTON CINCINNATI pontiled soda in Medium Cobalt

Medium Cobalt
I. SUTTON CINCINNATI pontilled soda

Cathedral style Peppersauce in Deep Cobalt

Deep Cobalt
Catherdral Peppersauce


Teal Blue

Ayers Hair Vigor in Peacock Blue

Peacock Blue

Allens World Hair Restorer in Deep Amethyst

Deep Amethyst

Whiskey in Puce

Burgundy Puce
Puce Iron Pontilled Whiskey

Whiskey in Pink Puce

Pink Puce
ARNAS Whiskey

GXIII-19 Flora Temple Flask in Deep Copper Puce

Deep Copper Puce
GXIII-19 Flora Temple Flask

Drakes in Plum Puce

Plum Puce
Drake's Plantation Bitters

Drakes in Strawberry Puce

Strawberry Puce

CARTERs Repro Ink in Ruby Red

Ruby Red
CARTERs Ink Reproduction

Squat Cylinder in Black Glass

Black Glass
Squat Cylinder

CARTERs Master Ink in Medium Green

Medium Green
CARTERs Master Ink

Dagger Boat Ink in Deep Emerald Green

Deep Emerald Green
Dagger Boat Ink

Gargling Oil in Lockport Green

Lockport Green
Gargling Oil

Henry Lubs Soda in Deep Teal Green

Deep Teal Green

NTBT Irregular Hex Poison in Emerald Green

Emerald Green
NTBT Irreg Hex Poison

KYGW Wax Sealer Fruit Jar in Citron

KYGW Wax Sealer Fruit Jar

Poison Flask in Deep Citron

Deep Citron
Poison Flask

Pontiled Master Ink in Deep Olive Green

Deep Olive Green
Master Ink with Iron Pontil

Pontilled Snuff in Olive Amber

Olive Amber
Snuff pontilled

Pontilled Demijohn in Yellow Olive Green

Yellow Olive Green
Demijohn pontilled

Gun Wa's Chinese Remedy

Brilliant Yellow
Gun Wa's Chinese Remedy

O.W. Daley / Pharmacist / White River Junction, VT

Golden Yellow
O.W. Daley / Pharmacist / White River Junction, VT

NTBT Hex Poison in Yellow Amber

Yellow Amber
NTBT Hex Poison

BFC Demijohn in honey amber

Honey Amber
BFC Demijohn

Amber pontiled umbrella ink

Medium Amber
Pontilled Umbrella Ink

Radams Microbe Killer in Reddish Amber

Reddish Amber

Color Ingredients

Page 11 of McKearin's American Bottles book describes Dossie's Treatise, which lists some of the ingredients used to produce the different colors found in antique bottles:

  1. opaque whiteness: calcined tin (putty), calcined antimony, arsenic, calcined horns or bones and sometimes common salt.
  2. red: gold, iron, copper, magnesia or antimony.
  3. blue: zaffer (impure oxide of cobalt) and copper.
  4. yellow: silver, iron, antimony and magnesia with tartar.
  5. greens: copper, Bohemian granite and those that will produce yellow and blue.
  6. purple: such as will produce red and blue.
  7. orange: antimony, and all those which will produce red and yellow.
  8. black: Zaffer, magnesia, copper and iron in various combinations.

Irradiated Bottles

Bottles left in direct sunlight for prolonged periods of time (years and years), will change from to clear to an amethyst tint. This color is called sun-colored amethyst is quite attractive.

Some dealers will irradiate bottles to quicken the process and deepen the color. Clear bottles, especially straight-sided Cokes and Pepsi, will turn a medium to deep purple. This color is not natural and not rare, so buyer beware.

The same process is done to green hobbleskirt Cokes, and the result is an amber hobbleskirt. While attractive and novel, it is also not rare and not natural. So don't be lead on by stories that it is a rare one-of-a-kind prototype bottle.

For additional info on irradiated bottles, see the April 2002 issue of the Raleigh Bottle Club newsletter.

Recolored Bottles

Recently on the EBAY there have been a number of recoloured (also called "painted") bottles up for sale from a location in the county of KENT ENGLAND. Although these are very decorative in bathrooms and kitchens, they spell trouble for the unwary bottle collector.

First seen in England some 6 years back in the form of SELTZER BOTTLES, these turned up all over the place and in some parts of the STATES in cobalt blue, yellow, red and other colours. All were originally clear glass.

You can find the one table at large antique fairs like ARDINGLEY and others in England, selling aqua and clearglass old bottles painted or dipped in a variety of colours. These are sold cheaply at up to $5 apiece. They are described rightly as recoloured old bottles. The problem is they fall into the hands of unscrupulous dealers, or even the experienced collector who thinks it's a new colour for that type of bottle.

The modern paints used to recolour baths etc which I believe are used on these coloured bottles have such a hard finish that they are practically scratch proof and one of the only ways to tell if they are painted is the face test. Take any bottle and it will feel cold against your cheek, the painted ones will feel slightly warm. Colours are many shades of blue, greens, yellow , red, deep amethyst/violet. There may well be other colours not listed here.

Advice: only buy from reputable collectors or dealers and do not buy recoloured bottles to start with on EBAY, or sooner or later some poor unsuspecting collector is going to pay out good money for a new colour and eventually find that its a FAKE!

This info provided courtesy of Rob Goodacre.

Emily advised me that the paint on recolored bottles will come off with nail polish removed (a sure way to tell a fake).

Misc Info

  1. Fruit Jar Colors

  2. See Antique Bitters Bottles for examples of some different colors of bitters bottles.

  3. See Glenn Poch's newsletter article on Colors.

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