History of Perfume
Perfume is as old as civilized humanity itself, with the first mention of a perfumer being recorded in ancient Mesopotamia. Ancient Egyptians employed the use of perfume in all aspects of life, and utilized scents in everything from religious ceremonies to burial preparations and even daily wear. The Egyptians with a high social ranking would wear a lily based perfume to communicate their social status to others.
The Persians then maintained the concept of fragrance as a signifier of political status, but it wasn’t produced on a large scale until the Ancient Romans and Greeks realised perfume’s power. Archaeologists recently discovered a perfume factory from 2,000 BC in Cyprus, which is thus far the earliest evidence of the mass production of perfume that we have found.
In Western Europe, perfume being considered a highly skilled art form practised by alchemists was first recorded in 1221 in monks' recipes of Santa Maria delle Vigne or Santa Maria Novella of Florence, Italy.
In 1370 Queen Elizabeth of Hungary ordered a perfume to be created which would be referred to as ‘Hungary Water', and the popularity of perfume travelled across Renaissance Italy during the 16th century via Catherine Medici’s personal perfumer Rene le Florentine, and then on to his homeland of France. These connections with royalty secured perfume as an object of desire for those wishing to emulate the higher classes within the European psyche.
When considering the ancient history and traditions behind perfume, it continued to be an exclusive product until relatively recently, with it being available at an affordable price and to the mass market being a fairly new development.
The perfume market changed dramatically at the end of the 19th century when scientific advances in synthetic scents made it possible for scents to be mass produced without the extraordinary costs and labour involved in natural extraction methods.