25 Jul 2014
Although it is difficult to pinpoint exactly when tear bottles came into being, there are many references made through history:
In Roman times tear bottles were fairly common; mourners filled the small glass bottles with tears and then placed them in burial tombs as a symbol of their love and respect. Legend says that a deceased person was valued more highly if a lot of anguish and tears had been produced, and to this end sometimes women were paid to cry into the vessels as part of the mourning procession. Glass blowing became prevalent in this period and around 100A.D large quantities of small bottles were found during tomb raids giving creditability to the mourning rituals; they were found mainly in tombs of the Egyptian pharaohs and nobility. Glass blowing faded out during the dark ages but was uncovered again in the Victorian Era.
Tear bottles were also used during the Victorian period to mourn the loss of a loved one. The bereaved would collect their tears in the bottles and the special stoppers would allow the tears to evaporate over time. When there were no tears left the mourning period officially ended, but the bottle remained as a token of eternal devotion.
There have been other accounts of the use of tear bottles for example during the American Civil War where women would use the stored tears to represent how much their husbands and loved ones were missed and adored, the bottles of tears were saved until their men returned from battle. However as the War was one of the bloodiest in American history many soldiers did not return home and in these cases it is thought that the widows visited the graves of their lost one on the first anniversary of their death to sprinkle the tears on the grave marking an end to the first year of mourning.
The tear bottle is sometimes called a tear catcher or lachrymatory, they are mainly made of glass or ceramic and the body of the bottle is usually shaped like a tear drop, with a narrow neck and decorative cap. The stopper is sometimes a rubber seal to preserve the tears or a cork if someone wants to allow for evaporation. The bottles can still be purchased today and their use has been romanticised in more recent music, novels and poetry.
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