Perfume was discovered thousands of years ago, but it was very different from the type you get right now. When exactly people started extracting, this sweet-smelling liquid is not clear, but there have been records that date to Mesopotamia, Roman, and Persian Empires.
However, in the beginning, perfumes were only used by the nobles, and it wasn’t until much later that it became available to the masses. Scents in the earlier days were used not only to signify a higher class but also for healing through aromatherapy and in ceremonies. Find out more about how much perfumes have changed over time and the history of some of the fragrances you use today.
Oil-based ancient perfume
When people started extracting scents, it was always organic and plant or spice based, which is why it was also used in healing. The first record of fragrance extraction was in Mesopotamia in the second millennium BC.
The Egyptians were prominent on sweet fragrances such that Nefertem, who was believed to have been a lotus flower, was depicted with a flower and was known as perfume lord. The Egyptians used natural fragrant ingredients, which they distilled in carrier oils to make their perfume. Some of the most common scents include woody, fruity, and, of course, common flowers such as the lotus.
The Egyptian leaders were the only ones who could get this precious commodity, and it was considered a luxury item of trade. Queen Cleopatra was known to always smell good by using perfumes and even bathing in them. They also used it in ceremonies and even buried their dead in it.
The Greeks and the Romans in 1800BC documented their use of perfume in their culture, and most of these details have played a part in today’s perfume making. He goddess of love, Aphrodite, was known to use perfume in worship at the temples.
The Romans grew from producing scents on a small scale to become one of the biggest traders of myrrh and frankincense. Because of this, the fragrances were available and accessible to most people. However, when the Roman Empire fell, perfume lost popularity in Europe.
To make perfume cheaper and more accessible to everyone, the Persians and Arabs began distilling scents into water hence creating water-based perfume. They mostly used flowers such as lily of the valley as well as incorporating spices in some scents. In these societies, fragrances were more common with the nobles as well, mostly because it was still costly for the common folk.
Fast forward to early in the 17th century, water-based perfume became more popular with the people in Europe. The documented societies were mostly French and British, and perfumes were used in place of hygiene since people didn’t often bath or wash their hands as often. Fragrance was used to hide the bad odor, but because it was quite expensive back, then only the upper-class group had access to the best scents.
In the 19th century is when the industry changed entirely from the old ways of perfume production and use to what you can relate to now. They moved away from the single or dual scented fragrances to more complex mixes that brought together more components.
Modern Day perfume
Note that this whole time perfumes were used by women typically until an Italian barber created Eu de cologne in the 18th century in Koln, Germany. It was named admirable water and was initially marketed as medicine and was sold by Napoleon using the name 4711, which was also the name of the shop in Koln.
As time went by, creating a perfume from the oils of flowers, herbs, and spices became unsustainable, and because of this, chemists came up with a different way of doing it. Initially, steam distillation was used where they boiled flowers until they released their oil, and it separated from the water. The oils are then mixed with alcohol for purposes of diluting it and also helping it last longer.
It would take too many organic plants and spices to gather a kilo of perfume oil, which is why chemists developed synthetic fragrances. These are created using chemicals rather than natural ingredients, and it usually forms the more significant part of the perfume you get.
The categories of perfumes were then created, and this is based on how much oil is in the scent. There are three main categories, but this depends on the region and designer. Typically, perfumes have between 5% and 20% essential oil and are categorized as follows:
Eu Fraiche: this has the lowest essential oil of between 1% and 3% and is meant to freshen up with just a hint of fragrance.
Eau de Toilette: it has 8% to 15% essential oil, and while it lasts longer than Eu Fraiche, you may often need to top it up, so it continues throughout the day.
Eau de Cologne: this is where many types of cologne meant for men are categorized, and they usually have 8% to 15% perfume oil.
Eau de Parfum: it is the most concentrated hence often more expensive than all the other perfumes. It has an oil percentage of 15% to 20%.
It is rare to find pure essential perfume oil today since it would be costly unless you have a lot of money to spend. A lot of the oil perfumes being sold also have synthetic scents only that it is in oil form, and some of them may not be the best quality. Always check the licensing and standardization mark to ensure that you don’t buy anything harmful for your body.
The great thing about the evolution of perfume to the modern-day fragrances that we have is that you, as a buyer, have a lot of options from which to choose. The price range differs, and you can even find excellent designer scents for a bargain. The important thing is to understand your taste and what suits you, but don’t also forget to check out other options as you may discover something new.