Have you ever wondered where perfume comes from and when we started making it? As it turns out, fragrance has a rich history that goes back much farther than you may think. In this fragrant journey, we’ll look closer at the history of perfume making.
The Origins of Perfume: A Look Back at Ancient Perfumery
Throughout history, humans have worn some form of perfume to cover up body odors or to make themselves more attractive to potential mates. But the history of perfume making as we know it has origins in Ancient Egypt. Tapputi, a female chemist, is the first recorded perfume maker. Tales of her perfume-making endeavors were found on a clay tablet from Mesopotamia.
Tapputi’s story isn’t surprising, given the fact that fragrance was of the utmost importance in Egyptian high society. In fact, making perfume was so important that it made its way into Egyptian mythology. Nefertem is the lord of perfume, and he is often seen carrying water lilies, a common ingredient in Egyptian perfume.
Other ancient cultures also had love affairs with perfume:
- The ancient Persians ruled the fragrance trade for centuries and have been credited with inventing non-oil-based scents.
- The ancient Greeks and Romans actually documented their perfume-making methods, and these scents are still being recreated today.
- Indian Tantric rituals used perfume in their ceremonies and temples.
- The ancient Chinese infused items like ink and stationery in perfume, but they also used fragrance for disinfecting purposes.
Ancient cultures around the world incorporated perfume into their daily lives, but things began to change in the Middle Ages.
Perfume Making in the Middle Ages: The Rise of Fragrance Trade
The Middle Ages brought about a period of darkness and rebirth for the fragrance industry. The perfume was notably absent in the West from the 5th to the 11th centuries. The rise of Christianity brought about the condemnation of perfume, which was then viewed as immoral and a symbol of paganism. The only exception here was the use of perfume for medicinal purposes.
In the 12th century, the tide begins to turn. Arab influence transformed the perfume trade. Now, we had the means to distill scent with alcohol. These new techniques are tested in Salerno, Italy, and the fragrance industry is reborn.
The Renaissance and Perfume Making: New Techniques and Scents
During the Renaissance, the new perfume-making techniques that emerged during the Middle Ages continued to evolve and progress. Coil use has become widespread, and copper stills are replaced with glass ones to preserve scents.
Solid perfumes fall out of fashion and are replaced with liquid ones. Research expands, and perfume makers experiment with new scents and materials, like:
Europe soon becomes the epicenter of perfume during the Renaissance period, particularly Spain, Italy and France.
The Industrial Revolution and Perfume: The Birth of Modern Perfumery
The industrial revolution marks the birth of modern perfumery. At this point in history, we have come a long way from the origins of perfume centuries ago.
In this era, perfume once again becomes a status symbol, and fragrance manufacturers begin to give their products seductive names.
The Perfume Industry Today: The Future of Fragrance
Today’s perfume industry continues to advance and progress. A great deal of research goes into the development of new scent molecules, but it takes many years to go from lab to bottle.
Perfume manufacturers are now turning to AI and machine learning robots to find scent combinations. Humans who once served as “noses” for the industry may soon be working with machines instead of their own senses.
The origins of perfume are fascinating and rich. Since early civilization, humans have been using scent to camouflage body odors, make their homes smell fresher and even protect against illness. Today, we use scent as a reflection of our personalities and tastes. Who knows what’s in store for the future of fragrance?
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