A History Of Fragrances - Which Were The First Known Fragrances Used?

Nowadays, perfume is a million-dollar industry and finishing our outfits with a quick spritz of our favorite scent is something we have come to take for granted. Perfumes can take an outfit from dull to glamorous in an instant and many people have a signature fragrance they wear time and time again.

Fashion houses such as Dior, Chanel, Calvin Klein and Marc Jacobs are known for their perfumes and their scents provide consumers with an affordable way to own a bit of designer luxury. But it hasn’t always been this way and perfumes certainly didn’t used to be the sophisticated fragrances in exquisite bottles we are used to today.

A History Of Fragrances - Which Were The First Known Fragrances Used?
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So where did perfume first come from and which were the very first fragrances?
The word perfume derives from the Latin ‘per fumum’, which means ‘through smoke’. Creating scents for people to wear is a practice that has been around for thousands of years and the world’s first recorded perfume-maker is Tapputi, a woman mentioned in a tablet from 2,000 years BC. She distilled oil, flowers and other aromatics before filtering them to produce a fragrance.

Archaeologists believe the world’s oldest perfumes were found in Cyprus in 2005 when they uncovered an ancient perfumery that is thought to be over 4,000 years old. Around 60 stills, mixing bowls, perfume bottles and funnels were discovered.

It is believed that in ancient times, people used a range of fragrant flowers, herbs and spices to create beautifully-smelling liquids, although they were not nearly as sophisticated as the perfume-making process to develop in the future.

The art of perfumery and developing fragrances developed in western Europe from 1221 onwards and one of the first perfumes of note was created in Hungary in 1370. It was a combination of scented oils and alcohol for Queen Elizabeth of Hungary, called Hungary Water.
Over the years, the process of creating perfumes developed and in particular, the art flourished in Renaissance Italy. In the 16th and 17th centuries perfume became popular among wealthy individuals looking for a way to mask the body odours that developed from their lack of washing.

Skip forward a few hundred years and you will begin to notice some more familiar names on the list of companies producing perfumes. In 1853, huge French cosmetics brand Guerlain produced Eau de Cologne Imperiale.

Guerlain went on to be a prominent perfume-producer during the 1900s, alongside Coty and Caron. It wasn’t until 1921 when Chanel launched the iconic Chanel No 5 that some of the world’s major fashion houses jumped on the trend.

Chanel No 5 was created as a scent for women that epitomised the brand’s free-spirited, boyish aesthetic following years of corsets and voluminous skirts. It was followed by No 22 in 1922, with two more fragrances being released over the next five years. Around this time the house of Lanvin also started producing perfumes, with My Sin being its first fragrance in 1925.

Now, it is rare for a fashion house not to produce a perfume and many have a range of scents that support their signature aesthetic. They are a big money-spinner and if brands produce something the public latch on to, it can become a classic fragrance that women are unable to live without. Although perfumes are no longer considered a necessity to mask body odours, they are certainly a must-have for millions of people worldwide.

Shauna Stevens
About the Author:

Shauna Stevens is a freelance writer who enjoys writing on a broad range of topics, especially involving fashion and cheap perfume.

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