The Myth Of The Tear Catcher - Odd Practices Of The Victorians

Discussion Favourite Finds


Welcome once again to another instalment of "Blog Post Monday"!

I struck lucky with my antique treasure hunting this week, finding a lovely collection of beautiful and interesting items.  One of which was a delightful Victorian glass scent bottle or known by some as a lachrymatory bottle or "tear catcher".  In fact, it's not the first one I've been lucky enough to find, but it is the most beautiful.

This week I'll be looking into these so called "tear catchers" to see exactly what it is that the Victorians used them for, where the myth came from and how they continue to be a popular collectible for some.

So, as always, get that kettle on, cry me a river and let's see how many of those tears we can catch...



The Victorians were well known for their odd practices, particularly when it came to death and mourning.  From jewellery made from hair and photographs taken with deceased loved ones, to strict mourning periods, with the length of time dependent on the type of loss: spouse, sibling, parent, child, cousin, etc. 


Image: Photograph of a deceased loved one courtesy of William Bambridge


For example, widows were expected to wear mourning clothes for two years (one year in full mourning, one year in half mourning), during which they'd be unable to go out in society except to attend church. 


Image:  Queen Victoria's five daughters photographed in full mourning dress


Another odd Victorian practice, or so the story goes, is that they'd collect their tears of sorrow in a "tear catcher" and use them as a measure of grieving time.  Once the tears cried into them had evaporated, the mourning period was over.  It's a fascinating story and one that, personally, I think is very very lovely.  While some believe this story, and I'm one of them, others think there were no such things as "tear catchers".


Image:  My recent "tear catcher" find


Image:  My recent "tear catcher" find


Image:  My recent "tear catcher" find


Image:  My recent "tear catcher" find


The myth likely began with archaeologists.  Small glass bottles were often found in Greek and Roman tombs, and early scholars romantically dubbed them lachrymatories or tear bottles.  However, it was not tears they held, but perfumes, according to scientists.  Tests have been performed on the bottles over time, which appear to disprove the romantic theory of these ancient bottles being "tear catchers".


Image:  A lachrymatory bottle courtesy of Georges Jansoone


While experts claim to have debunked the theory, the majority of consumers don't want to believe them.  Instead, they have fallen in love with the romanticism of it all and so, the folklore continues...  I, for one, have been caught up in it all, and with a lot of tears of my own to cry, I think I'll be needing a bigger bottle...!



So, which side of the fence do you stand?  Are you a "Tear Catcher" or a "Tear Dismisser"...?  Let me know where you stand in the comments section below.


Image:  My recent "tear catcher" find


Well, that's it for this week folks!  I hope you've enjoyed this little look into the Victorians and their "tear catchers".  This particular example will be available to buy from our website very soon.

Remember, if you enjoy my posts, please show your support by subscribing to my 'Source Social' membership, which you can do via the 'Home' page.  It's free and gives you a weekly blog post and a fortnightly YouTube video delivered directly to your inbox, as well as exclusive discounts and first dibs on new items before they are added to our website.

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So, until next week, stay safe, keep buying those antiques and keep spreading that Source Vintage love!




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