History of Perfume


© Guillaume Blanchard

© Guillaume Blanchard   Egyptian scene depicting the preparation of Lily perfume

Perfume is a blend of fragrant oils, aromatic compounds and solvents that are used in hopes of adding a pleasant scent to the human body. Though the perfume industry has grown into a $10 billion industry in the last decade; perfumes have existed since the earliest human civilization. Perfumes had originated thousands of years ago in ancient Mesopotamia and Egypt and continued its progression of refinement into the perfume we use today.

History Of Perfume:
A woman chemist named Tapputi is believed to be the world’s first perfume maker. She made use of oil, myrrh, flowers and other scents and mixed them with water to make fragrances. Fragrance played a significant part in the lives of Ancient Egyptians and dated back to King Menes era i.e. around 3500 B.C. Fragrances gained popularity within the four ancient great cultures in India, China, Mesopotamia and Egypt and was extended to the elite world of Greece, Rome, Palestine, Persia and Arabia. Most ancient religions utilized fragrance to pursue their faiths. Thus, religions along with pleasurable pursuits were the main drives in the extraordinary growth of perfume usage through the centuries. Moreover, it was the ceremonial burnings that rendered perfume its name. During the ancient Roman times, Gods were worshipped via ‘per fumum’, which means ‘through smoke’. This Latin phrase eventually became the modern word “Perfume”.

The oldest perfumery of this planet was discovered in Cyprus during the 2004-5 excavations that revealed the remnants of a large perfume factory that existed, around 4,000 years ago, during the Bronze Age. The site’s size was around 4,000 square meters, which indicated that it was a very large factory and reveals that, perfumes were manufactured on an industrial scale during that time. Moreover, artifacts such as funnels, mixing bowls and perfume bottles were found during the excavation that proved to be further proof that a perfumery once existed on that site.

Modern History Of Perfume:
Perfume mainly boomed into a large industry due to the royal and wealthy patrons who preferred its odor masking capabilities. Places in Italy and France started cultivating the aromatic plants that were used to provide the perfume industries with the raw supplies required to prepare the blends and scents. Perfume gained wide fame in Britain during the reigns of Queen Elizabeth I because the Queen couldn’t stand stinking smells therefore; she had the public places scented. Then, during the 16th century, in Venice, perfumes were sold in beautiful bottles, which increased its value and price. Later, in the 17th century, Paris became the hub of perfume making, and Versailles was known as the finest smelling court in Europe. However, the actual revolution in production of perfume took place in the 19th century, when a few natural ingredients were replaced by substances obtained from chemical synthesis. Then, by the end of the 19th century, perfumes got linked to the fashion world and became a much sought-after product.

Interesting Facts:
The Greeks believed that perfumes were created by the goddess of beauty – Aphrodite, but her servant stole the secret recipes of fragrances and gave them to the common people. It was thought that Egyptian queen Cleopatra had her own special scents and balms that were used as cosmetics. Napoleon was supposed to have utilized 60 bottles of perfume per month, even when he was on the battlefield. The Romans used to apply scents thrice a day and they also, perfumed their household objects and pets. In fact, they use to release birds during the feasts to dispense fragrance from their wings. During the time of Julius Caesar bottle of perfumes were thrown on the mass to exhibit his victories. As per different researches, different people display different perception towards perfume. French women believe it is capable of drawing men; Americans feel that perfume boosts confidence and Japanese use it to show internal harmony.

Perfume Manufacturing Processes Through The Centuries:
In the ancient times, perfumes were made up of strong formulas comprising oils, herbs, crushed spices or flower petals before; the distillation process was introduced. Through the distillation process, Ibn Sina – a Persian chemist, created a fragrance that was delicate and light. Later, the first alcohol-based, modern perfume was made in Hungary in 1370. It was called “Hungary Water.” Additionally, the most recognized brand in the world is Eau De Cologne, whose manufacturing began in 1709. The utilization of modern technology has made the perfume making process very sophisticated, with perfume manufacturers and companies employing chemists and scientists to produce highly polished products.

At present, wearing perfume is not limited to the wealthy and nobles. Even though superior quality perfumes are still charged quite high, it has become a fashion icon that almost everyone loves. As a matter of fact, nearly all celebrity figures have their own signature line of colognes and perfumes. Perfumes have grown to become much more than something that simply smells good and the admiration for unique fragrances will steadily increase with time.