A Brief History of Perfumes

This is a very brief history of perfumes. There are a lot of things that will be missed out as the history is very lengthy.

Perfumes weren’t always used the same way as we do today. The origin of perfumes goes back to the Egyptians who used scents for celebrating prayers and religious ceremonies. Philosopher and army commander Pliny the Elder used rose-scented water to mask the smells in public areas.

The first alcohol-based fragrance is tracked back to the 14th Century, for Queen Elisabeth of Hungary.Hence the name Hungary water. The perfume was a mixture of rosemary, thyme, orange blossom and Lemon. Sounds nice! 

During the 15th Century, perfume was widely used as a daily hygiene product among the upper class. It was then created into lighter cologne water, which I’m guessing was diluted, making it more accessible for all classes.

When Julius Caesar took the throne in 47 BC he celebrated by throwing bottles of precious perfume into the crowd. That's an expensive celebration.

In England in the 16th Century during Queen Elizabeth's reign, orders were set for every public place to be perfumed because she couldn’t deal with bad smells. Same here Liz.

King Louis decided perfume was so important in France he wanted a new scent, so during the 17th Century, he commissioned his perfumer to create a new scent one for every day of the week.

Italian perfumer Giovanni Maria Farina created the first bottle of eau de cologne. He wrote a letter to his brother that was dated in 1709 ‘ I have discovered a scent that reminds me of an Italian spring morning, of daffodils and Orange blossoms after the rain’. I believe, can still be purchased today, you just need very deep pockets.

Perfume became much more affordable in the 19th Century. Queen Victoria granted The Crown Perfumery special permission to use an image of her crown on the perfume bottles. The founder William Sparks Thomson was also successful in other enterprises. Starting with making crinolines and corsets. Queen Victoria was a customer. There are a couple of different accounts to the founding of The Crown Perfumery, so we’ll go with the most interesting! It was said women were fainting during their corset fittings, Thompson Jr, who was a chemist developed a lavender based smelling salt to help recovery. This smelling salt then developed into The Crown Perfumery.

The 20th Century is when the perfume industry really took off, becoming a must-have fashion item. In 1921, the well known Chanel No.5 was launched. If you haven’t heard of this one I don’t know where you’ve been hiding!

While Vacationing in the South of France Chanel met the perfumer Ernest Beaux. They began to work together on a fragrance, apparently, Beaux or his assistant accidentally added way too many aldehydes (chemicals that help the scent last longer) which were not used very much in them days as perfumers preferred natural ingredients. This was given to Chanel as a sample.

Many say that the aldehydes reminded Chanel of soap, a scent that took her back to her mother's laundry, while others argue that she picked the fifth sample of a batch Beaux offered her because of her lifelong obsession with the number five.