People have been using perfumes for pretty much all of recorded history.
So what is Perfume?
Nowadays we think of perfumes as liquids, which we can dab on ourselves to give a pleasant scent. The word modern word perfume, however, is actually derived from the Latin phrase ‘per fumus’, which translates as “through smoke,”. So this gives a clue about the origin of perfume, with the earliest perfumes being smokes given off by burning incense.
Incense and Ancient History
Incense dates back over 3500 years and it was used o scent the air. Incense and perfumes are mainly made from plant products. The main source of these products are therefore aromatic woods, such as cedar, scented flowers and leaves . Other materials , such as oils can also be added to create the required scent.
As a general rule today, if the source of the scent is a solid, than it’s an incense; if the source is a liquid, it’s a perfume.
As well as using incense, the ancient Egyptians also knew about liquid scents. They used various oils and flower extracts throughout their society, especially in bathing .
Bringing Perfume to the West
The practice of perfuming continued through the Greek and Roman cultures. They did not use incense as much as they did scented oils. Olive oil was frequently used a base for men’s fragrances.
Historically perfumes were made by crushing flowers, barks, woods, or leaves. These were then either infused in various oils. or burned as incense.
During the Middle Ages, Arab chemists perfected their process to extract aromatic oils from flowers. Oils that are today normally referred to as essential oils.
Perfume Enters Modern Europe
In the Renaissance period in Europe, Arab traders introduced the essential oils and perfumers quickly recognized their value for the production of scented perfumes, especially liquid ones.
Perfume soon became popular throughout Europe -particularly in France. Gloves and wigs that were the style of the day were frequently perfumed.
Making perfume from essential oils, such as those from floral sources, remains with us today. A lot of attention is now paid to the shape and style of bottles, which are now predominantly small and made from glass. A distinctive shape is synonymous with a brand and a trademark. Something that we are all familiar with today.