Primitive perfumery began with burning of gums and resins for incense used in religious rites of ancient China, Palestine, and Egypt. Then scented plants were incorporated into animal and vegetable oils to anoint the body for ceremonies. By 3000 BC Egyptians were importing large quantities of Myrrh.
The Greek word “aromata” described incense, perfume, spices and aromatic medicines. By the 7th century BC, Athens had hundreds of perfume shops. 1st century AD Rome was going though about 2,800 tons of imported frankincense and 550 tons of myrrh annually. The Roman Emperor Nero in 54 AD spent the equivalent of $100,000 to scent just one party he gave. The spread of Islam in the 6th and 7 th centuries helped to expand he appreciation of fragrance. Mohammed’s favorite scent was probably camphire (henna).
Arabian physician, Avicenna (Ibn-Sina) (980-1037) improved on the process of distilling oil from the petals of roses. Rose water was the first modern perfume. The first alcoholic perfume, Hungary Water was originally concocted in 1370 for Elizabeth of Hungary. During the Middle Ages, Crusaders brought the knowledge of perfumery back to Europe form the East and after 1500 Paris, France was the major center of perfume making
The Italian influence swept through France helped along by Caterina de Medici’s (1519 – 1589) marriage to France’s Prince, later to be King Henri II. Her alchemist accompanied her and set up shop in Paris. French towns, Montpellier and Grasse had established themselves as centers of fragrance providing scents for the popular perfumed gloves that were all he high style.
4711 – Reportedly the original Eau de Cologne developed in 1792 in Koln, Germany was based on a formula made by a French émigré friar. The Carthusian monk was a member of a contemplative order of the Roman Catholic Church, founded during the 11th century by Saint Bruno. Because of religious persecution, he had taken refuge with one of Cologne’s wealthiest families, the Mulhenses. The holy man gave the secret recipe for “Miracle Water” (because of its supposed healing powers) to their son Wilhelm as a wedding gift.
Wilhelm whipped up a batch and was so impressed (and so were his friends) by the refreshing citrus tonic that he set up shop in the family home and started taking orders. The scent got its name from the address number of the Mulhens family perfume shop. Cologne is the French name for the German city, and during the 1974 French occupation of Cologne, Napoleon used to bathe in a dilution of this scent. The French introduced it to the rest of the world and it’s still a popular scent today.
Founded in France in 1810, the Pinaud brand and its Clubman line of men’s toiletries can be found in virtually every barber shop and men’s club across the Unites States.
1867 the Paris International Exhibition exhibited make my scent sentosa perfumes and soaps apart form the pharmacy section thus establishing an independent commercial area for “cosmetics”
1868 was the first production of a synthetic fragrance, coumarin (which smells like new-mown hay). Perfumer Jean-Francois Houbigant was the first one to use a synthetic commercially. Synthetic fragrance production introduced musk, vanilla and violet odors 20 years later.
Chanel No. 5, the first expensively produced perfume using artificial scents is marketed in 1924, and yes there were bottles of samples with other numbers, but Coco Chanel liked the fifth bottle. Coincidentally, her couture collection was scheduled for presentation on the fifth day of the fifth month. Interpreting this as a good omen she used the number on the sample bottle as the name. It was the popularity of Chanel No. 5 that set off the designer fragrance industry of today.
Guerlain first produced Shalimar, an eastern style scent, in 1925
Joy, “the most expensive perfume in the world” was blended in 1926 for Patou.
Old Spice – Introduced in 1937 by William Lightfoot Schultz, a soap manufacturer in New York. It was initially for women, but changed to a man’s product the following year.
Aramis – the first men’s scent sold in department stores in 1964
Perfume and Attraction
Throughout history, perfume has been used to attract the opposite sex.
Cleopatra used jasmine discount perfume to attract Mark Anthony. Even the sails of her ships were perfumed with jasmine, so that her signature scent would waft to the shores, heralding her arrival.
Maidens then and now use musk and heavy perfume to attract their men. It makes sense though. Pheromones that are naturally produced by the body play a part in sexual attraction. Perfumes mimic the effect pheromones have on red blooded men.