Associating smell with things is ancient and it would be near impossible to tell exactly how it started. If something smells good you lean towards it and if it smells bad you stray from it. Keeping this in mind it is extremely logical that someone would want to invent something that would make you more attractive to the sense of smell. This invention is what we now know as perfume and it dates as far back as the ancient Egyptians.
The ancient Egyptians would scent many of the different things that they interacted with and would wear scents as part of their everyday attire. Egyptians were the inventors of glass and they put it to use for perfume. Holding perfume was one of the first common purposes of glass. It wasn’t long for many other countries to start using perfume.
The Arabs and the Persians both worked to codify perfume so that it could be spread around the world easily. Like with many things Christianity changed the use of perfume and made it a lot less popular. The Arab culture used perfumes as a key part of some of their religious ceremonies and as such spent a lot of time developing new techniques and methods for creating perfumes. During the 7th and 8th century, the Arab culture was known to have pioneered ways to capture scents.
While the Christians originally did not like the idea of perfume this didn’t stop perfume from being one of the many things plundered during the Crusades. Crusaders in the 11th century would plunder perfume from those they attempted to conquer and bring it back to their women.
Unlike with modern spray perfumes, the original ones were either balms or ointments. Older perfumes were a lot simpler and tended to be stronger smelling than modern ones. The scents for original perfume came from all natural ingredients that had a variety of origins. Rosewood, Rosemary, Lemon, wine, and more were all used as ingredients for making ancient people smell fabulous.
Perfume isn’t a simple cosmetic piece. Older perfumes involved a lot of work and while they still do today, they also involve a very scientific process. Modern chemistry has allowed perfumes to expand in their complexity offering more scents and both more expensive and cheaper options.
In the 14th century, liquid perfume replaced the old solid perfumes. This modernization of perfume is claimed by Italy. It was discovered that when you cool vapors from the distillation process it created scented alcohol which could be used to apply scents.
Queen Elizabeth of Hungary was one of the first people to use modern perfume and it is credited as the reason she got married. The lavender and rose scent of the gifted perfume attracted the King of Poland. When the perfume was given to her it was given under the name Elixir of Youth. It didn’t take long for the perfume to be named “Queen of Hungary Water”.
When perfume was modernized it went through one major change. It became gender separated. Two terms branched off from one concept. Perfume was used by women while cologne is used by men. Original perfumes were used by both genders. For example, Julius Caesar was a frequent user of perfume. Records found even tell us what kind of perfume he wore and it has been recreated.
From there companies and individuals started to create perfumeries and brand their labels. Today there are more perfume brands than you can shake a stick at. While some women use perfume regularly it has more commonly become used for dates and special occasions as part of the process of dressing up.
Perfume has a very long history and has gone through many evolutions. It will be very interesting to see where it goes next. One of the most recent perfume innovations is activated by your sweat. The more you sweat the better you smell. What will they come out with next?