Saturday, November 8, 2008

The Sweet Smell of....Perfume?

The word 'perfume' comes from the Latin per fume, meaning "through smoke". The first scents were burned much like incense, and thus the aroma arrived "through the smoke". The Egyptians invented glass and the perfume bottle was the first use of glass, around 1000BC. Jumping ahead to 17th century France, perfumed gloves were popular, making it easier to mask the unpleasant scents of rotting meats and, shall we say, less than adequate public hygiene. Eau de Cologne was invented in the 18th century, and became a revolutionary advance in perfumery. In the 19th century, chemistry came into play, and a multitude of new scents were 'invented", rather than mixed, as they had been previously. Perfume was becoming ever increasingly popular, and in France, there was even a fragrance called "Parfum a la Guillotine". Apparently, you would not want to meet your maker smelling unpleasant!

The town of Grasse in Provence established itself as the center of raw materials with it's orange, rose and jasmine growing trades. Paris itself became the center of the perfume industry and spawned the creation of such perfume companies as Houbigant, Loubin and Guerlain, all still producing perfumes today. In 1921 the fashion designer Coco Chanel launched her own fragrance, Chanel No. 5, so named because it was the fifth scent presented to her by her fragrance designer Ernest Beaux.
(It was the first "grownup" perfume I received and I have saved the bottle all these years!)

The 1930's saw floral scents take the forefront, with the introduction of Worth's Je Reviens, and Jean Patou's Joy, both still popular today, and continue to be two of the most expensive on the market, especially when presented in limited edition cut-crystal bottles.

Today there are over 30,000 "designer" fragrances on the market and perfume is no longer reserved for just the wealthy. Witness Paris Hilton's recent introduction of fragrances; Elizabeth Taylor and her highly successful line of perfumes named after her favorite jewels. Even rappers are coming out with their own scent.

Do you have a favorite scent?

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