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History Of Perfume And Fragrances Essay

1658 words - 7 pages

History of Perfume and Fragrances

The history of perfume is a reflection of humanity: a means of exchange, a protection against disease, a potion with divine virtues, a gallant message, which reflects society, perceptibly communicating its sense of commerce and medicine, of the sacred and the sensual. The word "perfume" comes from the Latin per fume "through smoke". This refers to the original use of fragrances - the burning of incense and herbs as a religious offering.

Perfume is made up of denatured ethyl alcohol and essential oils. The different names refer to the percentage of essential oils, and thus the strength of the scent.

Perfume: 22% of essential oils.
Eau de Parfum: 15 - 22%
Eau de Toilette: 8 - 15%
Eau de Cologne: 4%

Ancient Time

During the civilizations of antiquity, perfume was presented as an offering to the gods. It was believed to sublimate the body and make it more god-like.

10th Century BC: The Medes, ancestors of today’s Kurds are generally given credit for the invention and widespread use of perfumes, presumably to hide certain smells originating from overeating and failure to observe what are now common hygienic practices.

1580-1085 BC: The Egyptians create perfumes for daily consumer use and ultimately, use in religious ceremonies. Egyptian women used perfumed creams and oils as toiletries, cosmetics and aids to lovemaking. Queen Cleopatra was reported to use opiates and perfumes to seduce her many lovers and she may be the first to invent pomades from bear grease. Perfumes, especially those developed from resins, were originally used to appease the gods but in time they became more important in the embalming process for chemical reasons. Materials with drying agents like asphalt were also used for mummification. One would also presume that if an individual were to be wrapped up in bandages and kept in a coffin for about 1900 years that they could use a little perfume. But perfume also served a secular purpose and the Egyptians’ extensive knowledge of flowers and spices like irises, heliotrope, saffron, cinnamon, cedar oil, myrrh and numerous other resins helped create delicate scents for aristocrats at the Egyptian court. Studies conducted on alabaster bottles discovered among artifacts left beside female mummies have led scientists to believe women preferred perfumes made from flower essences for their personal use.

350 BC: The Ancient Greeks: It was in the fourth century BC that the conquest of Alexander the Great first brought perfume to Greece. In the days of true Greek luxury, perfume held a value almost equal to that of food. In the description of one famous banquet, we are told each guest was first required to engage in a ceremony called "the purification of hands," which was done with perfume. Each guest was presented with a small gold or alabaster container of sweet odors. This gives us an idea of how completely addicted the Greeks became to perfume. Unfortunately, they carried...

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