About Perfumes

Where does perfume come from? Body scents have actually been around since the ancient Egyptians, but modern-day perfumes didn’t actually appear until the end of the 19th Century. Fragrances like perfume and cologne started out as mixes of oils and scents, but in modern times, they’re mostly ethyl alcohol with some essential oils added in varying degrees. Perfume has the highest concentration of essential oils – at about 30 percent of the mixture – while aftershaves and splashes have no more than three percent. Cologne falls somewhere between eight and ten percent. In general, most fragrances on the market, and since the 1960s, have been eau de parfum and eau de toilette scents, both of which respectively follow perfume in concentration.

The first scents used were oils or unguents by the ancient Egyptians, particularly myrrh and frankincense. Rose and peppermint were made into unguents by letting the leaves steep in oil. But the actual start of modern-day fragrances, referred to the “perfume era,” was the late 19th Century. Although more general knowledge of organic chemistry sparked interest in developing scents, the center of fragrance creation was Grasse in Provence, France, where the leather treating industry was trying to find scents to cover up those from tanned leather.

By the 20th Century, many of today’s notable fragrances were created, including Chanel No. 5, Shalimar by Guerlain, and Tabu by Dana between 1920 and 1940. Modern some fragrances companies, such as Coty and Yardley, were also established by this time, as well. Perfume, however, was considered a high-end product until the 1960s, and designer perfumes by Yves Saint Laurent and other designers entered the market at affordable prices for the middle class. The ’80s, on the other hand, saw a spike in fragrances by designer clothing brands, with Giorgio Beverly Hills and Obsession by Calvin Klein being some of the notable designer brand fragrances at the time.

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