VINTAGE DEMIJOHN BOTTLES
Unless you’ve been living under a rock the past few years you probably have noticed lots of large, beautiful bottles showing up in all shapes, sizes and colors in magazines, home décor stores, and online. These bottles are generally referred to as demijohns or carboys.
I first discovered these beauties while traveling around Europe in 2015, but when I found a few discarded by a dumpster in Portugal I became obsessed. I started collecting them from flea markets, antique dealers and online sellers. I absolutely love glass – blown glass, stained glass, art glass, whatever. Not only are demijohns made of glass, but they are often handmade, antique, and come in gorgeous shades of green and blue. As an ocean lover my favorite colors are blue and green and all shades between, so I could stare at these bottles all day!
Pretty much all genuine vintage and antique demijohn bottles come from European countries like Spain, France and Italy. They can be several hundred years old, but of course, the really old ones are very rare and hard to find.
What is a demijohn?
From the French word demejean, the word demijohn refers to teardrop or narrow-necked bottles that were used to store wine or olive oil, primarily in Europe.
What’s the history of demijohns?
Demijohns were once used all over Europe to store wine or olive oil in large quantities. The owner would take his empty demijohn to the local “fill station” and fill it with the latest wine. To provide a seal to protect the wine from air, they would add a layer of oil at the top, then siphon the wine from below the oil.
Actually, in some parts of Europe this practice still exists! When my husband and I were visiting the Piedmont region of Italy last summer we were admiring a bottle outside of a winery. An employee came out to get it and we asked him if it was for sale. He said yes, we could buy it with the wine at the shop around the corner. We had a good laugh about the idea of trying to haul 50 liters of wine home from Italy!
Usually when you find demijohns, they are just a beautiful glass bottle, but originally some were covered in jute or wicker to protect the glass. Others were transported inside a metal or wooden crate.
These beautiful and eco-friendly glass bottles have been used for decades, only recently being replaced with much less attractive plastic bottles.
How can you tell genuine antique demijohns from modern replicas?
For starters, look for imperfections in the glass. Things like air bubbles, wrinkles, and discoloration are all good signs of age. Often a bottle will have some light staining, even after being cleaned. This shows that it was in fact used for wine storage. If you find a bottle that has a chip on the mouth, don’t worry, this also just adds to the proof that it is old and was in fact used. If the bottle is a little lop-sided or has a wonky neck, this indicates it’s likely very old.
What’s the best way to style demijohns?
Personally, I am in love with all the colors of demijohns, and I love the way they catch the light. They look fabulous in mismatched groups, sometimes with a single twig or dried flower.
The lighter ones can be used for storing and displaying corks. I’ve also seen people fill them with led fairy lights. They look beautiful high up on top of a cupboard, or down on the ground in a corner. You can even use them to decorate your outdoor space. I’ve seen them with plants inside as a sort of terrarium. The ones in wicker baskets make great doorstops. And you could even use them for storing an emergency supply of water.
Where can I find demijohn bottles to buy?
If you’re traveling around Europe look for demijohns at local flea markets. During summer most European cities have weekly flea markets in one of the local squares. Other markets can be found by searching Google or talking with the locals. If you can’t get to Europe, you can find them on Ebay or Etsy, or you can buy them right here on this website!
My husband and I collect demijohns in all shapes and sizes throughout Portugal, Spain and France. I have to sell them because I don’t have room in my house to keep them all! All bottles on my site have shipping fees included in the price, but you also have the option of upgrading to DHL Express insured shipping. Insured shipping is a good option, because while I do my best to pack them very carefully, I have had some break in transit.
Shop my available demijohns here.