Perfume Review: Vintage Coty Emeraude

It’s difficult for me to write a review of a fragrance that is special to me. Emeraude was the first perfume I ever loved. I still love it. I’m a little worried that the magic could wear off and it could become ordinary for me. But this is a lovely thing, and if I had my way, everyone would smell it – everyone.

I first encountered Emeraude at the drugstore sometime around 1984, and instantly thought it the most beautiful perfume I’d ever smelled. Soft and aromatic and floral at the same time, it was so well-blended that I could never have told you what was in it. At the time, I was about halfway through my bottle of original Chloe, that big flirty white floral bomb, and I was only really familiar with my Chloe, my mom’s No. 5, my grandmother’s Avon Cotillion – which I thought was hideous – and Opium, my personal scent nightmare. Emeraude was like nothing else in my world.

And (in the smug, naive manner of teenagers everywhere), I loved the ads for it, too: “I love only one man. I wear only one fragrance – Emeraude.” 

This was the bottle of Emeraude that I owned – eau de cologne in a lime green color, in a slightly-curved rectangular bottle with a white top.  My mother disliked it, finding it “too mature” for a teenage girl.  But a boyfriend gave me a small half-ounce bottle, and I kept it on my dresser and wore it and loved it until it went bad from a couple of years’ worth of light and heat damage.  And then the next time I went to smell it at the drugstore, some time in the early 90’s, it smelled different to me.  It smelled like itself – sort of – but sharper and thinner.  It didn’t make me sigh with pleasure, so I thought that my tastes must have changed.  I just put it back on the shelf and gave it no further thought.

Until I read a mini-review of the vintage on the Posse (link at bottom of page), in which March described Emeraude as soft and rich.  Yes, I said to myself.  Yes, ebay.  Yes, I’ll go look.  I bid on a half-ounce bottle of parfum de toilette that looks 70’s-era to me.  It smelled even better than I’d remembered.  I went on an extended Emeraude quest last summer, eventually hunting down and dragging home six bottles.  (Um, yeah, you read that correctly: six bottles.  Two teeny bottles of parfum, one half-ounce bottle of 1950’s edt, two half-ounce bottles of pdt, and one stunning FOUR-ounce bottle of pdt.  I told you, I love this stuff.)

I will make the observation that unlike many vintage fragrances, vintage orientals tend to survive the years largely intact, although sometimes they can go faint.  All of the pdt bottles I own smell fabulous, which the two parfums, which are in pretty, decorative bottles and presumably spent some time on display on dressers, are actually less strong, and less long-lasting, than the pdt bottles.

Since you knew this was coming anyway, I’ll give you the usual caveats regarding vintage bottles, particularly those on ebay: YOUR BOTTLE MAY VARY.  You never know the conditions under which a particular bottle was stored – was it kept in Aunt Sadie’s bedroom closet, in a box up on the shelf, away from light, until she bought her assisted-living condo and downsized her possessions? Or did it spend twenty years sitting out on Aunt Louise’s windowsill because “it was so pretty”?  Has it been sitting in the window of the thrift shop, catching the light, until an ebay seller snapped it up and listed it for sale at a 400% markup?  You just don’t know. 

Ahem.  So on to the important stuff: how’s it smell? 

When I first put it on (all my vintage bottles are splash-type,  not spray), I dab one drop on each wrist and one at the base of my throat.  Then I attempt to dissect what I’m smelling, which is a little like trying to diagram Shakespeare’s poetry in that it’s not only difficult, but rather pointless when it comes to describing Emeraude’s appeal.  What is immediately apparent is the citrus.  There’s a huge ton of bergamot, intense but somehow creamy, possibly because of all the vanilla in the base. This is the big-sillage phase, and it only lasts about 20 minutes before quieting and settling down onto skin.   

The heart of the fragrance gradually comes into play, and it consists of rich florals that are so well-blended it’s difficult to pick out any specific note except jasmine.  This blend seems very classical, and under the citrus vanilla, it reminds me of quite a number of familiar fragrances – No. 5’s rose-jasmine-ylang center comes to mind, and so does Alahine’s. The heart phase, which seems to stay always underneath the citrus-vanilla veil that characterizes Emeraude to me, lasts about an hour, maybe an hour and a half.

Eventually it slides into its beautiful base. Emeraude is, particularly in its drydown, extremely soft. There is an element of powder from the benzoin, and the smooth sweet blend of vanilla and sandalwood.  I can’t pick out opoponax or (thank goodness, because a lot of orientals are ruined for me by this) patchouli.  The whole base is satin-smooth like scented talc, but is also mysteriously creamy, plush, and sweet and seems to melt into my skin and stay.  And stay, and stay… I typically get about eight to ten hours out of those three drops of Emeraude, which is excellent staying power for me. 

Here are the notes for Emeraude:  Lemon, bergamot, orange, tarragon, rose, jasmine, ylang-ylang, Brazilian rosewood, vanilla, sandalwood, benzoin, patchouli, opoponax, and amber.   

What Emeraude feels like: velvet the color of soft moss, like “Miss Ellen’s portieres” at Tara, the ones Scarlett made a dress out of.  It feels like a heavy, weighty formal gown made of heavy cream satin, with green ribbon trim.  It feels soft and plushy and bosomy, womanly and quietly sexy, but not flirty or coy or predatory.  It feels comfortable.  For all that heavy, smooth weight, it is surprisingly wearable in the summer because its sillage seems to stay rather close to the skin, once the big bergamot blast has settled.  It’s one of my favorites, and I’d probably take it to the desert island (heat or no) if I were ever forced there.

A word on concentrations and formulations:  Emeraude has throughout its life been released as parfum, eau de cologne, eau de toilette, and parfum de toilette.  While the vintage edc and edt smell nice, they tend to be rather faint.  The two small bottles of parfum that I own are also quite ethereally light, possibly due to light damage.  My favorite concentration is the pdt – I haven’t been disappointed with any of the samples I’ve smelled of it – it is rich and lasting, without overwhelming anyone.  The pdt was last produced, as far as I can tell, in the late 1970s/ very early 1980s.  I recommend the 1960s-1970s pdt in the gold crown-topped bottle (see image #5).  However, I have not sampled proper vintage parfum that smells as it should, so if you can find that, it might be the way to go.  Edit: Forgot to mention color.  The oldest stuff has usually lost its green tint and turned a light amber color, like weakish iced tea (okay, fine, I’m a Southerner, I just assume everybody knows what that looks like, and if you don’t, I’m sorry).  See image #3 above.  The PdT is usually a soft mossy-green color, like really good virgin olive oil.  See image #5 again.  Anything the color of neon sour-apple candy?  To be avoided, in my opinion.   The 80’s EdC was not hideous, so if the only thing you can find on ebay is in the rectangular-ish bottle with the wide white top, check the color.  If it’s peridot green (image #6) as opposed to Green Apple Jolly Rancher green (image #2), it might be okay.  The bottle has not changed since then, but the color has grown more garish

Emeraude was reformulated sometime in the 1980s, and has been retooled since then.  There may be reformulations I’m unaware of, which is not unusual for such an old fragrance.  I’ll be honest with you: leave the current version on the drugstore shelf.  It’s thin and sharp, stiletto-y, nothing like its former bosomy, creamy self.  Luca Turin says of Emeraude that it was the second oriental fragrance (the first, he says, was created for the original Parfums de Rosine company, and its formula has been lost) and “arguably best,” but that it has been ruined.  I concur. 

A large number of people comment on (vintage) Emeraude that it’s “just like Shalimar, only softer.”  I’d disagree, at least in part.  Certainly I see why people make the observation, because Shalimar and Emeraude share some DNA: a bright citrus top, a classical floral heart, a rich, powdery-creamy vanilla base.  There’s no question in my mind that Shalimar is a further exploration of the structure of Emeraude.  The differences, as I notice them?  Shalimar’s citrus is more tart, a bit more lemony.  Instead of Emeraude’s soft rose-jasmine heart, I smell mostly jasmine, full and luxurious in Shalimar.  And the base contains noticeable patchouli as well as the famous vanilla – once the “impure” De Laure vanilla, now recreated with a bit of birch tar –  that Guerlain uses to such startling effect .  I’ll venture to say that perhaps Shalimar is the better perfume.  It is more adventurous, more contrasted, more surprising and complex.  That touch of tar in the base – that’s genius.  It’s shocking.  It’s art in a way that Emeraude is not.

And yet, I do not love Shalimar.  I find it difficult to wear, unless the weather is just right; it seems to be perfect in the fall, when there is a hint of woodsmoke in the air and the promise of rain.  I find it impossible to wear in any concentration lower than parfum de toilette.  But Emeraude is forgiving and soft, plush as kitten’s fur and friendly as my favorite sweater.  Perhaps it’s telling that I’d a thousand times rather have Shalimar Light than the original – all the difficult parts of Shalimar were planed away, and the whole thing sanded down to a finish with a texture like suede.  If you love Shalimar, I wouldn’t be surprised if you were to find Emeraude unchallenging and perhaps a bit dull.  

Francois Coty’s insistence on keeping his perfumes available at a low price made it possible for a lot of women to own Emeraude.  Which is lucky for us, because a fair number of those Emeraude bottles, packed away in someone’s underwear drawer still in the boxes, are popping up on ebay and in thrift stores all the time.  Also luckily, Emeraude seems to age well. 

Reminder: if you are interested in entering the drawing for a sample of vintage Emeraude PdT, please leave a comment on this post, before midnight (Eastern Daylight Savings Time) on Sunday, May 23, 2010. 

I could not find a full review of vintage Emeraude on any of the perfume blogs I frequent.  There’s a brief one from March and a separate brief one from Musette at Perfume Posse; another brief mention of it in this review of L’Origan at Grain de Musc (Warning: the accompanying illustration, an art nude by Kees van Dongen, may not be suitable for the workplace), and a mention of it in this review of Parfumerie Generale Felanilla at 1000Fragrances.  Also, here’s a very brief mention among other Coty scents in this post at Perfume-Smellin’ Things.  And here is a short history at Perfume ProjectsEdit:  I had forgotten this lovely review at Yesterday’s Perfume and overlooked it when I went hunting for blog reviews.  (So sorry, Barbara!)

Images from top to bottom, all via ebay:  1945 ad from omar; 1980s Emeraude EdC from millersproducts; pre-1960s Emeraude from stubbinaeros; pre-1950s Emeraude from pickapaper; Emeraude PdT from jockeycreek; 1985 ad from xantha. 

Luca Turin quote from p. 65 of the original Perfumes: The Guide.


36 thoughts on “Perfume Review: Vintage Coty Emeraude”

  1. Okay, so I’m still gulping after recent No 5 and Shalimar purchases, so Emeraude will have to wait awhile. But now it’s at the top of my list. Your review is a terrific guide into Eneraude. I love the name – it sounds beautiful. Wonder if it means somehting? Sometimes in moments of idleness I dream up new names for the cats I will own after the current two have … er … shuffled off. I’ve thought of Jicky. Emeraude also sounds good. But my current favourite is not a perfume name, but ‘Miss Moneypenny’. A great name for a certain sort of cat.

    I think one of the reasons I had been ignoring Emeraude was that I had heard that the re-formulation was not good, and I could not gather the energy to research options for the vintage stuff. So thanks Mals for your review – all my questions answered. Your comments about vintage perfumes in general are really useful too. It’s always a great thing if you find a vintage bottle still in its box. There is at least some hope that it has been stored out of the light, if not the heat.

    And those ads are terrific. How heart tugging it is – only one man, only one perfume. Whatever happened to Coty? It seems so much less stylish than it used to be.

    I wonder which of today’s perfume ads will have future generations sighing with nostalgia?

    1. Anne – every one of my Emeraude bottles has cost me less than $22. No lie. Of course, I am shameless and don’t avoid used bottles. My most stunning vintage purchases have all been used bottles that were kept in their boxes (No. 5, L’Origan and Arpege parfums), and none of them cost more than $36 shipped. When you get around to bidding on Emeraude on ebay, your budget won’t feel a *big* hit. Just be patient, and the right bottle will come along.

      It’s a little embarrassing, but most of my limited vintage knowledge has come from a) brazenly cribbing from people who really know what they’re talking about (Octavian at 1000 Fragrances, Elena at Perfume Shrine, and the infoblog Cleopatra’s Boudoir) and b) making mistakes when buying on ebay…

      Yep, Emerald. (Wonder why Coty never did a Ruby or Sapphire?) And speaking of cat names, we had a friend who named his tabby Mildew and his black-and-white cat Smudge. The pets my husband and I have owned have always had “human” names – my cat Silvia, named for a character in a Scott Turow novel, is 17 years old.

      1. Thanks Mals. I forgot to say earlier that I think Yesterday’s Perfumes carries a review of Emeraude, including more fabo vintage ads.

        Good luck to your cat. That is an amazing age!

  2. I have never had the opportunity to try vintage Emeraude but I would absolutely love to. It’s got such reputation, I’d love to try it for myself.

    1. Well, Diana, I’m having Taz pull names out of his baseball helmet tomorrow… good luck.

      I can’t remember if you like Shalimar or not. But I think you said that you don’t mind vanilla? Even if your luck doesn’t hold for the draw, small bottles of pdt were common and hit ebay frequently, at very reasonable prices.

  3. What a fabulous review, Mals! I have to admit that prior to March’s brief review of it I had not really thought about Emeraude much. As I had mentioned previously, my memories of Emeraude were tied to a very dear (now departed) cousin. But after acquiring P:TG late last year (very late to the game, I know) I also started the hunt for vintage Emeraude. My first purchase of VE happened to be the PDT. In fact, my bottle is just like the one shown fourth from the top (pre-1950’s from pickapaper) and it smells delicious. I had assumed it was from the 60s or 70s. I’ve since purchased 2 VE parfums and a vintage EDT. The parfums are very creamy and light, as you describe, though I’ve yet to properly test them side by side. The vintage EDT came a few weeks ago and have not properly tested it, either (so many scents, so little time!). Thank you for the first full review of this wonderful fragrance … and what a review! Merci, madame!

    Wishing everyone a fragrant week. 🙂

    P.S. Though I know we are all busy, would it be possible to send you photos of them to see if you can help me identify the decade(s) they are from? (If you have a moment, of course.)

    1. Glad you liked the review, Connie – and what a treasure it is to associate a particular smell with a loved one.

      Wow, you have that pretty all-glass bottle? I’ve never actually seen one, just the occasional picture. That’s such an attractive shape. I was a bit disappointed in my vtg edt – it’s faint. However, since I have that monster 4oz bottle of pdt, it would be churlish of me to complain…

      Oh, do please send me photos! If I don’t know, maybe we can dig around and find out. My email address is in the “About Me” section.

  4. I adore vintage Emeraude – my grandmother always wore it and I always loved the way that she smelled. She bought me a bottle of it after it had been reformulated and we both almost cried in dismay. I had totally given up on it and then a wonderful swapper sent me a tiny sample of her vintage Emeraude and I almost wept when I sniffed it.

    I like to pull my tiny sample out and sniff it every once in awhile just to remind me of my wonderful grandma. I searched for some on eBay for awhile, then I got distracted – so maybe now is the time for another bout of searching.

    1. Cynthia, that’s a great story – is your grandma still around? (I miss mine very much – one died four years ago, and the other has fast-progressing Alzheimer’s. She’ll be 90 next month, but she hasn’t been herself recently.) I do recommend 70’s pdt in the crown-top bottle, since it’s frequently available, seems to age well, and isn’t expensive.

      The current version is just saad, isn’t it?

      1. The current version shouldn’t be allowed to be called Emeraude – yuck. Sadly, my grandma has been gone since 1998, but I still miss her tremendously – she lived with us when I was growing up and I spent many hours hanging out with her.

        My last grandparent, my stepfather’s dad, died last year and I was shocked at how bereft I was that that part of my family was completely gone. Of course, it’s been very hard on my parents and especially on my two oldest uncles who suddenly felt the weight of being the de facto “head of the family” after their last parent died.

  5. I also just LOVE Emeraude! And as much as I also love Shalimar in the perfume or extrait concentration, I always choose my vintage Emeraude PDT decant (just like image #5) for the lavish sprays. It’s SO beautiful & creamy! And even though it may not be as challenging as Shalimar, I think that’s why I like it more. Emeraude is one of those fragrances that can sit unworn for a while & then shock me into remembering just how gorgeous it is. I picked up a small new bottle at the drugstore not long ago & shortly after that it hit the trash can. It was horrible! What a shame. It’s so worth picking up an old bottle. And I think I read where someone compared it with the smell of rootbeer or Dr. Pepper. Yea, I can sort of see it.

    1. M, I think you’re right – it’s not challenging like Shalimar is. It’s so comfortable for me, as well as being rich and plush and smooth… like a dress that makes me LOOK like a million bucks while FEELING like a comfy sweater.

  6. Hi, I loved your review of Emeraude. Recently I was able to review a 1920s vintage Emeraude extrait, and yes it certainly looks like iced tea–but smells so much more heavenly….though I do add vanilla extract to my iced tea… 😉

    I found this early incarnation to the most heavenly of all. If you’d like to see my take on it, you can read it here along with my reviews of other vintages:

    1. Hi, Grace – welcome! I shall certainly pop over and read your review. I’ve enjoyed several others you’ve written, and I always enjoy looking at the images at your site.

      I’m sure that the first version of Emeraude was stunning, and how envious I am that you’ve smelled it.

  7. I got my sample from the draw yesterday, thank you so much! I couldn’t wait to put on Emeraude, and your review is absolutely spot on. It’s simply gorgeous! On my skin it’s quite similar to Shalimar, but softer and smoother, with no sharp edges. A glamorous comfort scent, if that’s possible. I adore Shalimar, because it’s sexy, demanding, smoky and animalic. But it can be difficult to wear for the same reasons, and it’s a special occasion scent for me. Emeraude is much easier to wear. I prefer the smokier vanilla drydown in Shalimar, but I think I would wear Emeraude more often. I guess I have finally fallen down the vintage rabbit hole, since I would love to have a vintage bottle of Emeraude in my collection!

    Thanks for the opportunity to try this beautiful scent, I’m really going to enjoy my sample 🙂

    1. Oh, so glad you got it, Marte, and that you’re enjoying it. It is so smooth. The smoke makes Shalimar difficult for me, though as I say, I think it’s more artful.

      Good thing Emeraude is so easily available on ebay!

  8. I remember on day in high school walking up behind a friend who was involved in conversation. He stopped and said, “hmm, it smells like Debbie”. Then he turned around and there I was.

    It has been about 25 years since I’ve had Emeraude. I am inspired to find it again and give it a try.

    BTW: Great blog!

    1. Awwww, how sweet! He knew you were there without seeing you! Hope you can find some nice older Emeraude – sounds like you loved it.

      Welcome to the blog, Debbie – comment any time.

  9. I bought a bottle of Emeraude pdt on ebay, the same one in your pic # 5, the splash bottle with the gold crown top. At first I thought the fragrance had deteriorated too much to be wearable, but after about 20 minutes or so the mustiness began to blow off and it started becoming really wonderful. I love how the citrus components last throughout the life of the fragrance – I get the impression of the oil from the rind – very intense. And it smells so good against the vanilla and benzoin sweetness, and the incredible woods. I’m very pleased I bought it now. Your blog helped me decide on my purchase (which bottle). I think this bottle may be from the 70s? It’s hard to get info on dating them. Anyway, thanks so much for this review! I really enjoyed reading it and the information is helpful. Next up, I’m expecting L’Aimant flacon mist in the mail. I don’t know the vintage of that one either, but it has a gold crown cap, not the clear plastic crown cap that I see on pics of the current version. Hopefully, it will be good as well.

  10. Mals!!!! I am bidding on the cool gold-crowned bottle , I think it will be mine soon, only a couple of hours to go…the countdown begins! I’m the only bidder too and it says it’s been in the box -SAFE!!!!! SQQQQQUEEEEEEEEEEE 😀 I will report back like a dutiful lil’ perfume addict and let you know!

    I think your review is lovely of this and I understand the love now. I do.
    Emeraude makes me feel like I should be dressed in elegant furs with a lit cigarette dangling from my ruby red mouth…What a lady of her day!

    <3~ T

  11. I won it my dear! Total $13. I NEVER get a score that nice!
    Wish I could find Lyric for that price!!! Bahahahaha:D:P

    I really,really hope it’s good and that I can wear it all winter.

    I’ll tell you all about on the lazy day polls…<3<3

  12. Tamara*J, You shouldn’t post here that you are bidding 🙂 I read that and the first thing I did was check out Ebay…I am glad you got the gold top. I have two (both from Ebay) and when I wear it, it’s like falling back into a lovely dream. Awh. The current formula has no comparison.

    1. Yeah, Tams – it’s a good thing for you I’m already stocked up…

      Kidding! I actually think I may be bidding against another perfumista on a small bottle of Miss Dior parfum right now. You know how you can look at who’s bidding, and while you can’t see the user name, you can see what else they’ve bid on recently? This person has been sniping other perfume items in “collectibles” – which means they’re going for the vintage stuff. Which means I might know this person, and would probably like this person… and would even (probably) share, if it’s good!

      Debbie, it is a “lovely dream” – I’m wearing only Emeraude this week, and it’s great.

  13. Your right Debbie, it was such an old post though that I figured my exchange with Mals was safe..

    Honey pie, you could just ask me and I’ll happily share some vtg. Miss Dior parfum with yah! I have that AND the vtg. eau de cologne which is strong despite it being edc. Quality missy! I love that perfume with a passion , do I ever!
    So hit me up if you lose the bid babe.
    Oh yah and yes how funny about that, I always wonder now too if perfume peeps I’ve talked to on here are trying to outbid moi! aha!


    1. Sounds like you got your Emeraude! 🙂

      I didn’t get my Miss Dior. 🙁 Oh, well. I decided how much I was willing to pay, and bid that amount, and somebody else wanted it more than I did. So that’s that…

      … except that I’ll probably talk to you soon about MD and other possible swaps, but not until December when NaNoWriMo is over. Because I’m WAAAAY behind.

  14. I purchased a bottle for my mom for Christmas because she loves em ride a perfume and it it definitely is not the same as she used to wear it had a very different smell I am very very unpleased have you changed your you are formula or something please let me know

    1. Well, Shawn, I’m in agreement with your mom — the new stuff is Just Awful, in my opinion. I loved it in the 80s, myself, but even then it had been reformulated, probably several times. If I may, I’d suggest searching eBay for an older bottle (I’ve listed some things to look for, in the above post). Don’t spend too much. 😉

      I wish we could petition Coty to bring back the old version.

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