The word perfume refers to a pleasant scent produced from a concoction of aromatic compounds, scented essential oils, solvents and fixatives. The term has been derived from “per fumus” which is a Latin word meaning ‘through smoke’. The art of perfume making or perfumery initiated in ancient Egypt; but the Arabs and the Romans were the ones who upgraded and refined the concept further. Perfumes were also used in Asia but were based on incense sources.
Many Egyptian inscriptions and clay tablets depict the process of preparing perfumes. But the world’s first perfume maker was Tapputi of Mesopotamia. There were accounts of this chemist on the 2nd millennium BC Cuneiform tablet. One of the oldest perfume making processes was discovered in Cyprus. Italian archaeological teams had excavated a massive factory that existed during the Bronze Age which is about 4000 years ago. Perfumery also existed in India and the main sources of fragrance were Attar, sandalwood oil and Eucalyptus Oil. In the west, European countries Hungary, France and England were the first to attempt composing scents.
Plants and herbs that were possibly used in early perfume making include Angelica, Scented Agrimony, Apple, Birch, Avens, Black Current, Calamint, Camomile, Fern, Mint,Fennel, Cyperus, Elder Flower, Feverfew, coriander, almond, Melilot Hawthorn, Clover, Broom, Hyssop, Lily of the valley, Conifer resin, Lavender, Bergamot, Rosemary, Sage, Oak Moss, Lemon Balm, Milfoil, Orris, Rose, Tansy, Violet, Rue and Jojoba. Modern perfumery began during the end of 17th century.
The longevity and intensity of a perfume depend upon the durability and concentration of the solvents and the aromatic compounds. Though different perfumeries have different compositions, the scent becomes stronger with the increasing percentage of these compounds. For example the oil concentration in Eau de Parfum (EdP) is generally higher than in Eau de Toilette (EdT). Today’s commercial fragrances are a blend of various chemicals and essential oils. Identifying the components accurately is quite difficult. It’s only a perfume connoisseur who can sniff the ingredients present in a particular scent. The price of a fragrance basically depends on the following natural as well as chemical characteristics-
Uniqueness of the scent
Complexity of the scent
There are no specific procedures for creating fragrances. The ingredients that are presently used can be roughly categorized as: primary scents, modifiers, blenders and fixatives. Tinctures, essential oils and absolutes are the major constituents of the current commercial perfumes.