The history of perfumes dates back thousands of years. Not only Egyptians but also Romans and Persians discovered various types of fragrances. Fragrances were a symbol of cleanliness and hygiene in ancient times rather than a supplement as today.
How Our Beloved Perfumes Evolved
People used perfumes in various ways throughout history. Before the emergence of the fashion industry, the nobility used perfumes to distinguish themselves. Perfumes were expensive and difficult to obtain.
One of the first recorded perfume factories was the Tapputi chemist, whose story was discovered on a clay slab from Mesopotamia dated back to the second millennium BC. Impressive, isn't it?
Fragrant Greetings from Egypt
Ancient Egypt's famous perfumes were of great importance here. Even in local mythology, there is a mention that the god Nefertem is the master of perfume. The Egyptians were producing fragrances using the distillation of natural ingredients with essential oils. The most frequent elements were, of course, flowers and fruits. The scents were not only used on skins but also as home fragrances and in public festivities. Fragrant baths and households played a significant role in the history of Egypt. The rulers even took their favourite perfume with them to the grave.
The Persian kings were famous for their distinctive scent. The perfume was like a signature for them, and no one else was allowed to use the same scent. The Persians even ruled the perfume trade and are considered inventors of oil-based perfumes. According to ancient Persian documents, many workshops existed for the production of perfumes, where perfumers experimented with distillation processes and were creating fragrances. Ancient Persia was another huge milestone in developing perfumery as a craft.
Thanks to the thorough documentation of perfume production, which is backed by the ancient Romans and Greeks, you can still find Greco-Roman scents today. One of them dates from 1850 BC from the world's oldest perfume factory. Perfumes were associated with the goddess of love Aphrodite, with services and temples. They often used incense and myrrh to scent temples and public baths or in the production of body balms and perfumes. Despite their love of fragrances, some Romans condemned the use of perfumes as a wasteful indulgence for the wealthy. As Rome fell, the use of fragrances also fell. As a result, the perfume market in Europe stagnated for hundreds of years to come.
Fragrant Writing and Other Skills
While perfumery has declined in Europe, in ancient India or China, the use of perfumes continued in everyday life. In India, fragrances were an integral part of tantric rituals. In ancient China, the scent was even part of the ink used for writing. The Chinese also used perfume as a disinfectant, believing it would rid interiors of the disease. They used perfume to scent surroundings but hardly on skin. Eventually, a new wave of personal fragrances arrived in China. At that time, it was mainly a strong oriental and spicy scent.
Perfumes in Europe
During the Crusades around the 11th century, the Crusaders brought to Europe from the Far East the materials and techniques to produce fragrances. The popularity of perfumes has finally risen, and it was perfected by the Italians in the 13th century who replaced liquid perfumes with solid ones. Marco Polo imported unique aromatic substances from his travels, and so Venice soon became a trading venue for fragrances. Catherine de Medici, a rich Italian woman who married the French king in 1519, is often attributed to the spread of perfume to the rest of Europe. Her Italian perfumer Rene le Florentin created for her the scent of orange blossom and bergamot. From that moment, perfumes became a real fashion accessory. European men and women wore it on their bodies, clothes and wigs. Perfumers began to incorporate more complex ingredients into their products, such as ambergris, civet and musk derived from animals. Scents were a way to mask body odours because personal hygiene was still unpopular. The perfumes became fashionable and a way of distinguishing the upper classes.
The changing tastes and developments of modern chemistry later laid the foundations of perfumery as we know it today in France. Alchemy gave way to chemistry. The French Revolution did not in any way reduce the appetite for perfumes, it even created a fragrance called Parfum a la Guillotine. Under the post-revolutionary government, people again dared to express a taste for luxury, including perfumes. Thanks to its shops, the city of Grasse in Provence has established itself as the largest production centre of raw materials for the production of perfumes. Of course, Paris became the business counterpart of the Grasse perfume mecca.
Although perfumes are known for thousands of years, their production methods have changed over time. Some fragrant materials were initially turned into balms, while, for example, flower ingredients were part of scented oils. During frequent trade trips, perfumers also began to use imported exotic raw materials, which they often added to water. The first perfume bottles were wooden and clay-made, and with time they gradually evolved into beautiful coloured glass bottles.
Today, perfumes are everyday fashion and personal accessories, made from natural and synthetic ingredients. They are no longer only for the rich and nobility. In recent years, however, the emergence of small and exclusive brands of fragrances has reappeared on the market. These are known as niche perfumes that return fragrance lovers to the mysterious world of perfume making as an art form, which niche perfumes are.
These fragrances contain the best oils from around the world and have revived a passion for real perfumes and ancient crafts. If you crave such a perfume, don't forget to read the article that explains how to chose the perfect perfume that will become a part of you like a beautiful piece of jewellery because perfume is much more than just a scent.