The Beginning of the History of Perfume

The Greeks considered it to be of divine origin, the French used it to hide their lack of hygiene, and today we choose it almost as a cult accessory to enhance our beauty and sensuality. We even have our favorites for day or night, winter or summer. Here we tell you about the origin and evolution of perfume.

In ancient Mesopotamia, the Sumerians seem to be the first in history to create a perfume. In fact, there are many references to perfumery in their literature. However, it was the Egyptians who, in ancient Egypt, encouraged this industry, as well as cosmetics. The priests were in charge of its elaboration, in the laboratories that they had to create also the different ointments that they used in their ceremonies: every day they anointed the statuette of God with these elaborations, as well as to the same Pharaoh when he went to the processions.

Around 539 BC, the Persians went a step further and macerated flowers in oil, which they then pressed. It is even said that different exotic flowers were brought from India and Arabia to create perfumes in Babylon.

Around 334 BC, perfumes arrived in Greece after the conquest of Alexander the Great, where they were considered to be of divine origin and even believed that the women who made them had powers. With the Greeks came ceramic bottles to hold the fragrances. And from here, through the Mediterranean, they reached other latitudes such as the Near East, Spain and Rome, where the first perfumers settled.

Because the Arab scholar Avicenna discovered the distillation of plant oils, the trade and transport of aromatic substances was much easier. Thus, around the year 1000, perfume began to become a symbol of status and opulence. Beyond the different connotations, the reality is that until the beginning of the 19th century, perfume was used to hide the lack of hygiene. How? The most elegant people used to wear a perfumed handkerchief that they brought close to their nose.

We owe the beginnings of its popularity and massification to Empress Eugénie, who in 1853 commissioned the doctor and chemist Pierre François Pascal Guerlain to create a cologne: Eau de Cologne Impériale. In 1886, David McConnell, an entrepreneurially minded door-to-door bookseller, noticed that women enjoyed the little floral perfume he gave them with the purchase of a book more than they enjoyed reading. The fragrance, created from heliotrope, heather, and hyacinth, among other notes, was made by him. Thus, he created the California Perfume Company, a company that years later would become Avon Products Inc. and that from the beginning based its business on direct marketing.

If there is a perfume that remained in history because Marylin Monroe assured that to sleep the only thing she used was a few drops of this fragrance, is the Chanel No. 5, which Coco Chanel sent to develop in 1921 to one of the first noses in the world: Ernest Beaux.Time line

A world without perfume would be a world without history. Perfume is in every age the witness of a society and provides us with a certain formation regarding its specific type of supply routes, trade, medicine, rituals and also sensuality.

07 July 2022
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