Origins Of Perfume

Origins Of Perfume

The origin of perfume is commonly attributed to the ancient Egyptians. They utilized scents to celebrate prayers and religious ceremony by burning essential oils, resin, and perfumed unguents.

This practice had several functions: to ensure divinities’ protection and benevolence and to convey messages and prayers to the dead, to purify the body and to conduct embalming ceremonies.

Over time, scents were not only confined to the sacred aspects, but they were also introduced in daily hygiene. Already at the time of the ancient Egypt there was an intense trade of spices, aromas and resins that were abundant in Egypt but also imported from distant lands such as the Middle East, Arabia and the Indians lands. From these trades were imported fine woods, scented resins, myrrh and incense that made up some of the main ingredients of the scents of the time.

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  • At the beginning of the 19th century, after the French Revolution, French society devoted itself to an unbridled luxury that made Paris a fashion international capital. Thanks to the trading's liberalization, a very profitable period of production of perfume began, loved by either the emperors and ordinary people.
  • In the history of perfume appears the names of boutiques and Maison perfumers still known today, such as Guerlain, Bourjois, Roger & Gallet, and Molinard, which often supplied personally royals and emperors.
  • Furthermore, chemical discoveries lead to the synthesis of particular perfume molecules that will enable the creation of innovative and high-quality fragrances.

During the period of the ancient Greeks, the perfume leaves its religious rituals and begins to accompany the everyday life of common people. While continuing to accompany the sacred rituals and key moments like births, weddings, and funeral ceremonies, perfume now also enters the profane sphere.

Expeditions to the East through the Spice trade will then allow the discovery of new exotic and precious materials, facilitating an intense perfume trade all over the world then known.

Perfume On The Oriental Culture

Perfume was well known in the Oriental culture, thanks to the reciprocal influences between Western acquisitions and Arab scientific knowledge.

  • In particular, amongst the Arabs was common to use fragrances for personal use, to accompany purification rituals or as an air freshener.
  • Arabs are also the inventors of the alembic and responsible for the diffusion throughout Europe of the ancient art of distillation.
  • From this area, many essential oils come from. The most common oil was rose water, used to perfume the house and to purify people in religious places, and prepare food and drink. Chemistry and alchemy discoveries allowed Arabs to export valuable raw materials around the world and thus control fragrance and perfume trade for many centuries.
Perfume After The 2000s

In 2000, the history of perfume came to a profusion of different fragrances that increasingly aimed at consumers trying to meet their needs.

Perfumery’s world soon becomes a global industry instead of luxury craftsmanship.

However, this trend is opposed by a new approach that aims to claim back a long tradition and the uniqueness of tailor made craftsmanship products. The same need for uniqueness is required by companies that today can no longer ignore the experiential and sensorial dimension. That is why brands are investing more and more on building a well recognizable olfactory identity.

From these lands, which were for a long time unknown to the western civilizations and provided with an exotic and mysterious charm, derive aromas, spices, silk and other precious goods.

  • In Chinese culture, those who emanated a good aroma were appreciate, so it was common use to apply pleasing perfumes such as patchouli and the so-called "Chinese Violet" or corded Telosma, which had an intense and very relaxing aroma.
  • In Japan the most popular scents were camellia, cherry blossoms and incense, also used in the West culture to accompany the sacred rituals. Around these aromas, Japanese culture developed elaborate rituals and traditions such as tea ceremonies and incense or Koh-do.

In Rome, thanks to the continuous conquests and expeditions, they begin to feel the influence of the different cultures and customs that become gradually assimilated.

  • From Etruscans seems to derive the habit of burning essences in special containers or censers, to spread the perfume during playful moments, dances and funeral rites. It is especially in the Roman Domus that the spread of fragrances begins to accompany daily convivial situations and banquets. But even outside the private context, access to Roman baths allowed anyone to wash and apply perfumed oils and unguents.
  • One of the most important innovations attributed to the Romans is the use of blown glass containers for perfumes. This material is odorless and easy to shape, so glasses could be made in different shapes and colors and perfect to contain the first cosmetics and scented oils.
  • Perfumery art experienced huge progress in the Renaissance thanks to increased knowledge in the chemical field and the improvement of distillation techniques.
  • The New World and the India Way brought to Europe vanilla, cocoa, cinnamon, and ginger. These precious commodities were used by Spanish and Italian perfumers, who soon began to move to France as well.
  • During 1700 , a new "smell perception" is born, and it’s more delicate and natural. People began to be more keen to hygiene and to focus on seduction and ostentation, which brought to the growth of elegant glass bottles for perfumes.
  • The invention of artificial soda allowed to greatly improve the quality of solid soaps.

Modern perfumery began in the 20th century and was dominated by synthetic essences that give unique notes to fragrances and from the invention of aldehydes fragrances like the famous Chanel n.5. In Europe, as well as in America, fragrances become real artworks and original creations of couturier perfumes were sold worldwide.

The most famous scents of that era were called with evocative names that recall precise feelings, because now what matters is the message that is transmitted with them. The first men's Eau de toilets also come out: they were initially used as aftershaves, but only later they became authentic perfumes.

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