The History Of Perfume

The word perfume comes from the Latin ‘per fumus’ meaning ‘through smoke’, as one of the ways of worshiping the Gods in Ancient Roman civilization was by burning aromatic herbs, spices and plants. However the earliest recorded instances of perfume manufacture and usage are from Ancient Egypt, during the reign of Menes in around 3500 BC. Anointing the body with scented oils was for some a part of general ablutions but the use of perfumes was most widely used by priests in numerous ceremonial rituals. For example after death mummified corpses would be sealed into their tomb with numerous prized and ceremonial grave goods which regularly included perfumes, in fact traces of scented water was found in the tomb of Tutankhamun some 3330 years after his death. And famously Cleopatra the Ancient Egyptian Queen tempted Julius Caesar, the Roman Emperor, with both her beauty and large amounts of perfume!

The Egyptian tradition of perfume manufacture was further developed and refined by the Ancient Greeks, Ancient Romans, Mesopotamians and Islamic cultures before reaching Western shores around the 13th century AD. For example the first recorded chemist was named Tapputi, a perfume maker who was mentioned in a Cuneiform tablet from the 2nd millennium BC in Mesopotamia. Whereas the Roman, Pliny the Elder, described the basic methods and ingredients for perfume making in his early type encyclopaedia, the Naturalis Historia, circa 77-79 AD. It is also thought that the Ancient Greeks were the first to make a liquid perfume, however this would have been a much heavier oily substance than the perfumes that we know today.

The process of distilling aromatic oils from plants (as we still do today) was first recorded by the Persian doctor and chemist Avicenna, who was born in 980 AD. He initially had success in deriving the essential oil from rose petals, which grew in abundance across Persia. The resulting rose water was an instant success due to its lighter texture and more delicate aroma than the traditional perfumes that consisted of heavy oils that were crushed with aromats.

This process of distillation is what crossed the sea and entered European lands, and thus by the reign of Henry VII and Elizabeth I the use of perfume had reached its peak in Britain. For example all public places were scented during Elizabeth’s reign as she could not stand bad smells. It is also around this time that the art of blending fragrances arose, with many court ladies proudly displaying their skill at mixing new fragrances. Finally during the 19th century and the industrial revolution the art of modern perfumery arose, with advanced chemical techniques allowing for finer fragrance blending and industrial production.

Obviously there are many thousands of different perfumes for you to choose from these days, but maybe you should consider returning to the roots of classic perfumery with a timeless lavender scent? Our classic Lavender Eau de Toilette is one of our best selling and most enduring products, the fresh, aromatic, floral and soothing fragrance happily standing the test of time.

Published Date: 15th January 2015
Category: General

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