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September 30, 2014

Have you ever heard of tear bottles?

This beautiful little glass vial is called a Tear Bottle.
It was used to collect a mourner's tears.  When the tears had
evaporated the period of mourning was said to be over.

Although it is popularly believed that tear bottles were created during
the Victorian era, they have actually been traced back over 3,000 years.

These tear bottles were uncovered in ancient Roman ruins.

Over the centuries many religions have accepted the tradition of collecting grievers' tears.  Antique bottles are often adorned with silver and gold.

The Old Testament of the Bible (KJV) makes a reference to collecting tears.  In Psalm 56:8 David prays to God, "Thou tellest my wanderings, put thou my tears in Thy bottle; are they not in Thy Book?"  This predates Christ by 1,000 years.

You might be wondering why you've never heard of tear bottles.  (I asked myself that question.)  The reason is two fold - 1) the tradition died out (terrible pun) after the Victorian Era, and 2) most were wrongly labeled as miniature perfume bottles.

Delicate 19th century etched tear catcher,
approx. 2" tall

This tear bottle dates to the American Civil War.
Soldiers on both sides would leave bottles such
as this one with their wives and mothers.

Another Civil War era tear bottle etched with enamel flowers.

Although not as ornamental as most, this plain antique
tear catcher is still quite valuable.  The next time you're at a
flea market keep an eye open for these tiny treasures.
Now you know.


  1. Yes I have heard of them but have never really seen them. Very beautiful.
    Didn't some crazy Roman Emperor supposedly cried a single tear and saved it ?
    Your blog always have the best posts.

    cheers, parsnip

  2. Thank you for visiting and joining "An Artful Blogger" - one of my three blogs.
    I've read the scripture you refer but never knew that people actually used bottles. How interesting. You've displayed some lovely bottle, that's for sure. Will visit again soon. Take care. Dixie

  3. Wow, they are beautiful...I wonder how many tear bottles I have seen that were marked as mini perfumes...