A Brief History of Perfume

Perfume is a mixture of fragrant essential oils and aroma compounds, fixatives and solvents, used to give the human body, objects, and living spaces a pleasant smell. Perfumery, or the art of making perfumes, began in ancient Egypt but was developed and further refined by the Romans and the Arabs. Although perfume and perfumery also existed in East Asia, many of the fragrances were incense-based. Today, French perfumes account for a substantial share of world perfume exports. The real perfume capital in France is not Paris but Grasse, on the French Riviera, where for centuries, roses, jasmine, lavender, irises and mimosa have been grown along with aromatic plants to extract their essences.

Perfume Today

The precise formulas of commercial perfumes are well-kept secrets. However, connoisseurs of perfume are extremely skillful at identifying components and origins of scents in a fragrance. In the industry, the job of composing perfumes that will sell is the responsibility of the "perfumer", also sometimes referred to as "the Nose" due to their fine sense of smell and skill in scent composition. The perfumer is effectively an artist who is trained in depth in fragrance aesthetics and who is capable of conveying abstract concepts and moods with fragrance compositions. At the most rudimentary level, a perfumer must not only have a keen knowledge of a large variety of fragrance ingredients and their smells, but also be able to distinguish each of the fragrance ingredients whether alone or in combination with others. They must also know how each ingredient reveals itself through time in combination with other ingredients.

Today perfumes are produced by a great number of artisan and designer houses, as well as by independent producers and larger corporations. Perfume is often an addition to a fashion house's label, and the trend of celebrity-endorsed scents continues to rise at a rapid rate. Celebrity perfumes generally do not have the staying power of classic fragrances, though some lines continue to expand and have enjoyed great success thus far, such as the Jennifer Lopez-endorsed "J Lo" collection by Coty. There has also been an increase in popularity of made-to-order, customized scents, with fragrance blending services available to online or onsite customers.

Fragrance Industry organizations that may be of interest:

heart-shaped perfume bottle