A perfume is a mixture of alcohol or oily substances. Perfumed cosmetics were already known and used by the Egyptians about 5000 years ago (kyphi). Perfumes were widely used by all peoples of the ancient Mediterranean, from the Greeks to the Romans and Arabs. At this time the perfumes were oily, as they served primarily to protect the skin from the sun; to this oily base were added plant aromas: the most famous and valuable were myrrh, incense, aloe, nard, terebinte and benzoin. In the Middle Ages the use of perfumes in Europe declined, both because the areas of production had fallen into the hands of the Arabs, and because the Catholic Church looked with suspicion at this consumption of pleasure. The art of perfumery developed instead in the Islamic world and in particular in Persia, where rose water was invented. Other flowers were also used in the Muslim sphere, such as orange blossoms; however, they were always perfumes based on water, given the Islamic ban on alcohol. Since the fourteenth century, the production of perfumes is again documented in Europe, in Hungary and especially in Florence. It was now alcohol-based perfumes. It was Catherine de’ Medici who brought perfumery to France: in fact, when she married Henry II of France, she took with her perfumer, Renato (or Réné) the Florentine. Until the end of the eighteenth century, Florence and Venice were the most important perfume production center in Europe.
The birth of the modern art perfumer happened between the seventeenth and the eighteenth century with the modernization of European perfumeries and the birth of new commercial products such as the Cologne water of the Italian perfumer Giovanni Maria Farina. During this period, aromas were more delicate and lighter, but also cheaper and aimed at a wider range of users. Later, during the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, the variety of essences available increased, thanks to geographical explorations and colonialism. In this period perfumes such as vanilla, Vetiver, Tea Tree have spread, cultivated in the European colonies from Africa to Indonesia. A last revolution occurred in 1921 when Coco Chanel produced her first perfume. The last stage in the history of perfume is placed at the end of the nineteenth century in conjunction with industrial development. We are witnessing a remarkable change where perfumes are produced in series, department stores are born and finally the first synthesis products are born thanks to the development of organic chemistry. Essential components of a modern perfume are mainly alcohol and natural essences dissolved in it like oil, or, as more and more often happens, synthetic scented elements, called “odorous materials” in the specialized language. Nowadays, the majority of these fragrant elements are produced in large quantities and therefore at reduced costs. For the composition of a perfume are mixed together from 30 to 80 scented elements, chosen from about 200 natural essences and nearly 2000 synthetic elements existing.
Perfume is an essential element that should never be missing from a woman’s daily outfit, just like a garment such as lingerie, even if it is just to go to work or simply to go shopping. In fact, perfume is more than just an element that enriches a person’s outfit: it says something about their personality. This is why it is necessary to choose it and wear it in the best possible way. The perfume should not be chosen according to fashion and the latest news; for this, it is easy to fall into the marketing trap and choose a fragrance just because it is trendy. Perfume is often one of the most popular gifts to give: how often do you get perfume as a present? From relatives, close friends and even simple acquaintances, who “dare” to choose a fragrance thinking that it is suitable for the person they are giving it to, or worse, thinking “one is as good as another”. Nothing could be more wrong.
The choice of perfume to wear is not to be underestimated, because it depends on the personality of the person wearing it, on their tastes, but also on more “physical” characteristics, or rather the tendency of their sense of smell. Besides, isn’t it true that a perfume can evoke a moment experienced and recall the memory of a person?