Historical Story Of Perfume

September 24, 2016

Historical Fiction

What is Perfume?

Individuals have used perfumes for just about all of recorded history. While hygiene standards have varied over the centuries (Queen Isabella of Spain, the 1400s, boasts that she’d only had 2 baths in her entire life), people have always aspired to have a fragrant odor. And they have turned to perfume.

So what exactly is perfume? Have people always understood it to be scented fluids in small glass bottles, as we know it these days? Well, oddly enough, some of the earliest perfumes had been retained little glass bottles. As the French say, the much more things change, the more things stay the exact same. So let us check perfume through the ages, and see what we come across.

We see perfume now as fluids, which we can dab or mist on ourselves to give an agreeable scent. The term modern word perfume, although, comes from the Latin phrase per fumus, meaning “through smoke,” and that gives a hint to the source of perfume. The earliest perfumes were the smokes given off by burning incense.

Incense and Ancient History

Incense is one of humanities oldest inventions; records of it can go back to ancient Egypt, much more than 3500 years ago. It was used to scent the air, and was mainly a “luxury” product: the wealthy utilized it in their homes, and the priests used it in religious rituals. Ordinary folks had to handle smells of ordinary life.

Incense was a luxury item because of the tremendous effort that went into producing it. Then, as now, the more tough it’s to make something, the more it’ll cost. To get a concept of ancient incense preparation, just attempt to powder various barks, twigs, leaves, and flowers with a mortar and pestle. Now do it enough to make a barrel of incense.

And this takes us to an additional point: just where to perfumes originate from? Largely, perfumes and incenses are made from plant products. Many woods, like cedar or mesquite, are quite aromatic, and we all realize that flowers give off scent, as to numerous leaves. Other substances, like oils and wines, can be put into these in numerous combinations, to create the desired scent. By and large, in the present terminology, if the origin of the fragrance is a solid, than it’s an incense; if the source is a fluid, it is a perfume.

The ancient Egyptians has knowledge of liquid scents, also. They used various oils and flower extracts on themselves, and the use of scents spread via their whole society. Perfuming was part of bathing, and bathing was frequent. As a side note, the public baths of Greece and Rome most likely owe something of their nature to Egyptian precursors.

The Egyptians also paid attention to the bottles and jars the utilized to keep perfumes. By and large, these had been ceramic or pottery, but they also used glass, just as we do these days.

Bringing Perfume to the West

Egyptian culture can have gone away, but the practice of perfuming lived on. The Greeks and Romans didn’t use incense as extensively, but they did take up the practice of using scented oils as part of bathing. Olive oil was regularly employed a base for men’s fragrances. These perfumed oils really served a dual purpose. They smelled good, naturally, but in the hot Mediterranean climate they also protected the skin from the sun.

So, for much of history, perfumes were made by crushing flowers, barks, woods, or leaves, and then infusing them into different oils or burning them as incense. Things began to change within the Middle Ages, when Arab chemists developed a process to extract oils from flowers. These days we call these oils aromatic oils, not as they are necessary to the perfume business ( they are), but because they are the “essence” of the perfume.

Perfume Enters Modern History

Arab traders introduced essential oils to Europe within the Renaissance period, and perfume makers quickly recognized them as superior for the output of scented perfumes, particularly liquid ones.

Perfume, as a way of masking the unpleasant odors of life, quickly became popular throughout Europe. In France it became particularly popular, in part by royal imprimatur The court of Louis XV was known as the “perfumed court” because of the prevalence of scent. It was in France that the practice of daubing women’s scent on the wrists originated.

It wasn’t just the royal courtiers who were perfumed, though. The gloves and wigs that had been the type of the day had been frequently perfumed. If you have ever seen portraits from colonial America, notice the wigs that Washington and also the other gentlemen are wearing; they’re white, not from age, but from the perfumed powder that was put on to them.

Heading Toward the 20th Century

The practice of making perfumes from volatile oils, primarily from floral sources, remains with us these days. The biggest difference between women’s fragrances now, and the women’s fragrances obtainable in the 1700s, is the bottles.

Modern glass perfume bottles, as little bits of artwork, were the brainchild of Francois Coty, the French-Corsican perfume maker, who, in the 1890s and 1900s, developed a marvelous reputation as parfumier, or perfume maker. He also had an eye for marketing, and recognized that not everyone had the ‘nose of Coty.’ His insight was to trade his perfumes in small, attractive glass bottles. He partnered with a glass maker, and the rest is history.


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