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The History of Perfume

Perfume manufacture in ancient egyptPerfume was probably first used by the Egyptians as part of their religious rituals many centuries ago. The two principal methods to make perfume at this time was the burning of incense and the application of balms and ointments. Perfumed oils were applied to the skin for either cosmetic or medicinal purposes. During the Old and Middle Kingdoms, perfumes were reserved exclusively for religious rituals such as cleansing ceremonies.

Then during the New Kingdom (1580-1085 BC) they were used during festivals and Egyptian women also used perfumed creams and oils as toiletries ar cosmetics and as preludes to love-making.The use of perfume then spread to Greece, Rome, and the Islamic world. And it was the Islamic community that kept the use of perfumes since the spread of Christianity led to a decline in the use of perfume.Perfume in history

With the fall of the Roman Empire, perfume's influence dwindled. It was not until the twelfth century and the development of international trade that this decline was reversed.

Perfume enjoyed huge success during the seventeenth century. Perfumed gloves became popular in France and in 1656, the guild of glove and perfume-makers was established. The use of perfume in France grew steadily. The court of Louis XV was even named "the perfumed court" due to the scents which were applied daily not only to the skin but also to clothing, fans and furniture.

Old perfume shopThe eighteenth century saw a revolutionary advance in perfumery with the invention of eau de Cologne. This refreshing blend of rosemary, neroli, bergamot and lemon was used in a multitude of different ways: diluted in bath water, mixed with wine, eaten on a sugar lump, as a mouthwash, an enema or an ingredient for a poultice, injected directly... and so on.

The variety of eighteenth-century perfume containers was as wide as that of the fragrances and their uses. Sponges soaked in scented vintages de toilette were kept in gilded metal vinaigrettes. Liquid perfumes came in beautiful Louis XIV-style pear-shaped bottles. Glass became increasingly popular, particularly in France with the opening of the Baccarat factory in 1765.

As with industry and the arts, perfume was to undergo profound change in the nineteenth century. Changing tastes and the development of modern chemistry laid the foundations of perfumery as we know it today. Alchemy gave way to chemistry and new fragrances were created.

The French Revolution had in no way diminished the taste for perfume, there was even a fragrance called "Arum a la Guillotine." Under the post-revolutionary government, people once again dared to express a penchant for luxury goods, including perfume. A profusion of vanity boxes containing perfumes appeared in the 19th century.

Grasse perfume factoryDue to its jasmine, rose and orange-growing trades, the town of Grasse in Provence established itself as the largest production centre for raw materials. The statutes of the perfume-makers of Grasse were passed in 1724. Paris became the commercial counterpart to Grasse and the world centre of perfume. Perfume houses such as Houbigant , Lubin, Roger & Gallet, and Guerlain were all based in Paris.

Today there are over 30,000 designer perfumes and scents and they are widely used by all demographics of women, as against from the past when they were reserved for the wealthy upper classes. Athough, the evolution and history of perfume has seen tremendous changes through the centuries, it's popularity has only increased and perfume remains a highly sought after product that creates a wonderful air of aroma, mystery and romance for women (and men) throughout the world.