The early Egyptians used perfumed balms as part of religious ceremonies and later as part of pre love making preparations. Myrrh and Frankincense were exuded gums from trees used to scent the atmosphere in rituals. Other plants such as rose and peppermint were steeped in oils until a perfumed unguent formed. The unguent was then rubbed into the skin.
It's interesting to note that perfume has come full circle today as more and more of us seek out high quality aromatherapy perfumed oils to use in exactly the same way as our ancestors did.
Products that enhance the feel of skin and the smell of the body have been highly valued in every culture. Trade routes introduced spices to other parts of the world and a wider range of scents could be made. In the past people often mixed their own potions using home methods creating their own aromatherapy products. Many homes had a still room where essences were steeped out of flowers and herbs.
Perfume fell out of use during early Christianity, but was revived in the medieval period. By the 1600s scents were applied to objects such as furniture, gloves and fans. In the Georgian Era non greasy eau de cologne was developed and it had many uses from bath essence to mouthwash.
The late 19th century was the first real era of perfume as we know it when new scents were created because of advances in organic chemistry knowledge. Synthetic perfume products were used in place of certain hard to find or expensive ingredients. At the same time a similar chemical knowledge development happened in textile printing dyes.
Grasse in Provence, France became a centre for flower and herb growing for the perfume industry. The men who treated leathers in the same area found the smells so bad they perfumed themselves and the leathers. They were knowledgeable about making the botanical essences and were the early perfume noses. But it was only in the C20th that scents and designer perfumes were really mass produced. Before that, the few trade names that existed were Coty and Yardley who made fairly light scents with familiar smells.