Some History on Perfume10th Century BC: The Medes, ancestors of todayís Kurds are generally given credit for the invention and widespread use of
perfumes, presumably to hide certain smells originating from overeating and failure to observe what are now common hygienic practices.
1580-1085 BC: The Egyptians create perfumes for daily consumer use and ultimately, use in religious ceremonies. Egyptian women used
perfumed creams and oils as toiletries, cosmetics and aids to lovemaking. Queen Cleopatra was reported to use opiates and
perfumes to seduce her many lovers and she may be the first to invent pomades from bear grease.
Perfumes were originally used to appease the gods, but in time became important in the embalming process for chemical reasons. One would also presume that if an individual was to be wrapped up in bandages and kept in a coffin for about 1900 years that they could use a little
350 BC: The Ancient Greeks: As they ate, misted by a gentle spray of rare expensive
perfumes, dispensed by the fluttering wings of white doves. This extreme use of
perfumes tells us just how obsessed the Greeks were with manís relatively new ability to control fragrance. They had scents specifically created for each part of the body. Scents were used to enhance love making, increase the appetite, and sharpen the mind.
Perfumes were even thought to cure illness (forerunners of aromatherapy?) they weakened the resistance of a recalcitrant lover. They even became outlawed at one point, so people could smell the real world and get some work done. Wealthy Greeks were buried with a small bottle of their favorite scent, while poor ones were often buried with a picture of such a bottle painted on the outside of their meager caskets.
500 A.D. The Romans: The Gallo-Roman civilization was the first society to use scents made from flowers of the vervain plant, which was strictly reserved for ceremonial use by druids and practical use by sacred virgins. They invented a scented water prized by Gallic chiefs and a highly prized
perfume composed primarily of incense and sandarac mixed with oil and ceruse additive. This mixture, in accord with Roman usage, was probably a cream to prevent wrinkles.
The use of perfume then spread from Greece and Rome to the Islamic world. The Islamic community kept using
perfumes even after the spread of Christianity had led to the decline. It was not until the twelfth century and the development of the international
perfumery trade that this decline was reversed.
1600-1800. The French: In 1656 the guild of glove and perfume-makers was established in France. The use of fragrances became so popular that the court of Louis XV became known as "the
perfumed court". The popularity of perfumery rose with the birth of new blends and especially eau de colognes made from rosemary, neroli, bergamot and lemon. This pleasing fragrance was used in many ways: diluted in bath water, stirred with wine, eaten on a sugar lump.
Perfumes and Colognes became mouthwashes and even enemas. The medium became more of the message as
perfumes were sold and carried in stylized pear-shaped glass containers created by the Baccarat crystal factory in 1765.
1800 Industrialization & Perfumery: "Parfum a la Guillotine."
was one of the first of the modern perfumes inspired by changing tastes and the rise of modern chemistry.
Perfume product became synonymous with Paris. In the 1830ís the process of vapor distillation came into general use in the
perfume industry. Other new processes
and discoveries like analytic chemistry performed in real laboratories in Grasse in Provence made this area, along with itís rose, orange and jasmine growing industry, the commercial center of
perfumery during this period.
Bottling became increasingly important. Perfume maker Francois Coty formed a partnership with Rene Lalique. They produced bottles for many
1900: Continuing Advances in Perfume: In 1903, Moureu and Delange found methyl heptine carbonate and methyl octine carbonates, which possessed intense odors reminiscent of violet leaves. In 1904, Darzens discovered the "glycidic method" of synthesizing aldehydes. Another important discovery was was hydroxycitronellal, which was prepared from citronella isolated from citronella oil. But this is just chemistry. The real significance is that
perfumers increased the number of synthetic fragrance materials until they had several thousand synthetic scent products to use in various combinations to create todayís varied scents.
The advent of department stores in both Europe and America gave perfumes a broader outlet.
Perfume companies like Solon Palmer in New York, launched more than 100 perfume products in 1920 alone.
As perfume brands proliferated, the importance of product packaging became more integral to the sale of the product. The glassworks of
Baccarat produced bottles for Mitsouko (Guerlain), Shalimar (Guerlain) and others. The glassworks in Brosse created the classic bottle for Jeanne Lanvinís Arpege, and Chanel No. 5. The artistry included in the packaqing probably gave these
perfumes an edge, helping to insure their places in the History of perfume.
"The California Perfume Company" (which became Avon) grew from an office of only 20 by 25 feet to a facility of more than 60,000 sq. feet in less than a quarter century.
The 1980ísand 1990ís brought an explosion of designers and designed scents. We began to experience a whole new range of cleane,r sharper scents which probably began with Estee Lauder, Karl Lagerfeld, Ralph Lauren, Givenchy, and Chanel. The trend was contimued by these now famous
perfume designers including Calvin Klein's, Yves St Laurentís, and Nina Ricci's.
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