A Brief Lesson in History of Perfume4 min read
Perfume: Dots the i’s and crosses the t’s of every style since 2nd millennium BC.
Scent is the ultimate memory evoker, and since the creation of memories is a lifelong process, it is no wonder that history of perfume is just as long as human history.
From the early stages of beauty industry’s development, a great emphasis was placed on scents as means of seduction, highlighting a presence or achieving religious ecstasy and performing rituals. Today trends are only different on the surface. Perfume is still used to invoke the divine in ourselves and induce fragrant ecstatic trance in those around us.
Gods gift to humans and vice versa
Today, when fragrances are more accessible than ever, and every celebrity launches a fragrance under its trademark name, it is difficult to imagine the humble origins of perfume. The word perfume comes from the Latin “per fumus”, meaning through smoke.
Once the man discovered fire, he became so fascinated by the smell of smoke, he decided it must belong to the divine. What is interesting is that the scent triggered by fire has still retained its significance in many religions ( eg. incense in Christianity or incense sticks in Buddhism and Hinduism) Also known as “The Holy Smoke”!
Scents for Pleasure
The Ancient Egyptians were the first to wear scents just for pleasure, but the right for making perfume was reserved only for the highest officials of the clergy. Embalming bodies was made with fragrant myrtle and a special type of cinnamon, and scented oils were found in Tutankhamen’s tomb.
The Greeks on the other hand had a special scent for each body part, and at one point the obsession with scents become so great that they even tried ( unsuccessfully ) to prohibit its usage.
In Europe, the devotion to scents was developing under the influence of Arabs and under the auspices of Catherine Medici who wore scented gloves made in Grasse, a small town in France, which to this day is synonymous with perfumes.
Of course, back in the days fragrances were worth a fortune, so the legend says that the poor Hungarian Queen received a bottle of perfume from a monk. Shortly after, her social status has improved to the point that she was asked to give her hand in marriage to the Polish king.
Aristocratic obsession with perfumes did not fade even in times of greatest crisis. Indeed, in the 17th century fragrance usage became a substitute for daily hygiene, and after the creation of cologne water in the 18th century Cologne, perfumes become more accessible to the “ordinary people”.
Modern Fragrant Times
The twentieth century brought the cult perfumes which are still in vogue even today, although reformulated due to the scarcity of certain perfume ingredients.
In the 21st century, we are witnesses of “fragrance boom”, with more than 1000 new fragrances launched every year. The millennials have developed a peculiar olfactory palate, so it is no wonder there is an increase in demand for “make your own perfume” kits, seminars and webinars.
The emancipation of women meant making personal choices about life and everything related to it, including perfumes. It means women no longer have to wait for a perfume to be given in the form of present, when they can choose the one they want themselves.
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