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  • Writer's pictureAhmed

Antiques with a fizz

A look at a favorite decorative antique item: the vintage soda siphon Visitors to our blog and website can't fail to notice our interest in religious antiques. However, we also keep an eye out for French antique decor, or rather items which could make great home decoration, once the inevitable dust and detritus has been polished off! Of course, we also like items with a bit of history behind them...

(via Pinterest) In 1767 Joseph Priestley, the famed theologian, natural philosopher, chemist, grammarian, multi-subject educator, political theorist and discoverer of oxygen accidentally discovered a method of aerating water with carbon dioxide. He wrote of the "peculiar satisfaction" he found in drinking it, and in 1772 he published a paper entitled Impregnating Water with Fixed Air, but wouldn't really profit from what he called his "happiest" discovery. J. J. Schweppe developed a process to manufacture bottled carbonated mineral water based on the discovery of Priestley, founding the Schweppes Company in Geneva in 1783. In 1843, Schweppes commercialised Malvern Water at the Holywell Spring in the Malvern Hills, which was to become a favorite of the British Royal Family.

(via Bottled carbonated water sold well but the bottle design needed improvement. There was no way to re-cork the bottle to save its contents for future use. Once opened it wasn't long before the sparkling water became flat. The modern siphon was created in 1829, when two Parisian jewelers, Deleuze and Dutillet, patented a hollow corkscrew which could be inserted into a soda bottle and, by use of a valve, allowed a portion of the contents to be dispensed while maintaining the pressure on the inside to prevent the remaining soda from going flat. The final innovation was a spring valve added by another Frenchman, Antoine Perpigna, in 1837 effectively completing the modern soda bottle cap. The soda siphon, or seltzer bottle became a common sight in bars and in early- to mid-20th-century homes where it became a symbol of affluence. By the 1960s and 70s they had become streamlined affairs to shoot a spray of soda into your whisky. My dad had one, even though he didn't drink. I think he saw Blake Carrington use it on Dynasty and realized it was a must have.

Most French bars and brasseries would keep soda siphons, branded with the bar's own name, either in acid etched script or full color printed. The bottles themselves came in a huge variety of colors, from clear glass to cobalt blue, turquoise, apricot pink, yellow, bright green, emerald green which were often related to the brand or flavor of the drink. Most interesting are the ones made of the terrifyingly named Uranium glass. Yes, the glass contains uranium, usually in oxide diuranate form, and its mildly radioactive. Under UV or blacklight it has a characteristic slight glow. It was introduced as it gave a particular color, usually green or pale yellow. The shade is similar to the lubricant Vaseline hence its often called vaseline glass. The uranium made the glass to metal seals more effective but for obvious reasons couldn't be made after 1945. Finding a functional siphon is rare. The pumps were usually cheap base metal and the springs and hinges will most likely have seized long ago. Nevertheless they are still very much in demand. Even when non-functional they are decorative and beautiful objects.

(via Chez Pluie) Of course, we also make sure we always have a few pieces in stock. We find them beautiful, especially the way they catch sunlight, though it can be a bit frustrating waiting for a sunny day for this kind of photo:

(via us! at Cabinet de Merveilles)

We tend to like the brightly colored bottles, but especially those with vivid, clear, baroque lettering. With the ornate serif lettering they scream vintage shabby-chic francophile... which is perhaps what I am :-)


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