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History of Perfume: Timeline

Foto antigua mujeres en una perfumeria

In this second section of the history of perfume, you will learn about the most important facts and curiosities about perfume and the art of making them.

This article is divided into different subchapters to facilitate its reading and thus go directly to what is interesting.


4000 BC to 3000 BC: Perfume was used as an offering to the Gods in most ancient civilizations, since it was considered that it sublimes and deifies the body. From Egypt to Greece, "perfumes" did not exist as such, both flowers and aromatic plants and resins were raw materials that were dedicated to the worship of the Gods.
T he world's first perfumery was discovered on the island of Cyprus, in the Mediterranean Sea.

3000 BC onwards: The Egyptians used perfumes as a status symbol for the rich and as part of the mummification of the pharaohs. Ancient perfume recipes were found in its temples.
At the time when Egypt traded spices and resins with the Middle East, India and Arabia, perfume was also part of daily hygiene. Frankincense and myrrh were the main ingredients in the fragrances of the time.

2000 BC: The first female perfumer in history is recorded: Tapputi, from Babylon. I used to distill flowers, oil and other aromatic compounds, filter them and put them back in the still* many times.

Romans and Greeks: Pliny the Elder (philosopher and commander of the Roman army) recorded that water scented with roses was used to disguise bad odors in public places. They created blown glass containers to store perfumes.
The fall of the Roman Empire in the year 5 AD meant that the craftsmanship was only saved thanks to trade with the East, and thus, it survived throughout the dark ages. Like the Egyptians, the Greeks used perfume in religious rituals and as part of daily life, since it was also available to the people, who used it in wedding and funeral ceremonies, and at births.

From the 6th century to the 19th century

Middle Ages: Islamic cultures contributed to the development of Eastern perfumery by perfecting the extraction of fragrances through steam distillation and the introduction of new raw materials.
With the rise of Islam, Muslims began to use perfumes in daily life. In Islamic culture, the use of perfume has been documented since the 6th century and is considered a religious duty. Ibn Sina (Muslim physician and chemist) pioneered the process of extracting oils from flowers by distillation. This process is still used today.

Europe: Under the influence and knowledge of the Arabs, perfumery reached Europe in the 14th century through the Crusaders, who brought raw materials and perfumery techniques from the East.
There was a belief that perfumes had healing and disinfectant properties, this was reflected in epidemics: The upper classes dressed with a ball of perfume to protect themselves from the diseases of the time.

1371 First alcohol-based fragrance in history: made during the rule of Queen Elizabeth of Hungary and known as "Hungary Water."

France from the 14th century: France became the European center of perfumery, especially in Grasse, which today is the world capital of perfume.
During the Renaissance, perfume was used as a primary substitute for daily hygiene among the European upper class. The great explorers brought new raw materials from America and India, with which queens and courtesans competed for the perfumers' recipes.

The introduction of lighter cologne fragrances meant accessibility to a wider audience. Scented gloves became popular in 17th century France. The French king Louis XV liked perfume so much that he demanded a new perfume for every day of the week. During his reign, the court was known as "the perfumed court." Louis XV perfumed his skin, clothes and furniture.

England 16th century onwards: during the reign of Henry VIII and Queen Elizabeth I, all public places were perfumed, since bad odors were not tolerated, however, filth abounded among men and women, who abused the use of the fragrances. The ladies of the time distilled perfumes in the still and took the creation of perfumes with great pride.

Age of Enlightenment: In 1709, Italian perfumer Johann-Antoine Farina created the first alcohol-based eau de cologne. It owes its name to the German city of Cologne.
The first large Parisian houses that produce perfumes for more refined tastes begin to establish themselves.

Napoleonic era: the use of more subtle fragrances becomes fashionable, perfumes are no longer in style. Women reject oils and perfumes that are too strong, it was customary to have a scented handkerchief in hand. For their part, the English use "scented baths" on a daily basis.

Russia from the 19th century: Russian perfume manufacturing grew during the 19th century, and perfume production was a planned economy during Soviet times.

19th century and modern times

The Italian regions of Sicily and Calabria and the French region of Grasse were already cultivating aromatic plants for perfumery in the 18th century. These three regions continue to be the first European destination in terms of raw materials, trade and design.

French Revolution: During the revolution of the early 19th century, French society turned to luxury which, thanks to the liberalization of trade, turned France into an international fashion giant. Some of the maisons from that era still exist today: Guerlain, Molinard and Bourjois.

Modern Perfumery: Modern perfumery can be said to have begun in the early 20th century, when it became a global phenomenon. The evolution of tastes and the development of synthetic essences with the innovation of spray perfume bottles brought perfumery to where it is today. Perfume is no longer just a thing for the rich and royalty.
Great responsibility for this advance lies with François Coty, who revolutionized the industry and understood the important role that presentation played. It was he who turned perfume into a true luxury product.
In 1921, Coco Chanel introduced the most famous perfume in the world, Chanel No. 5, while Guerlain introduced Shalimar in 1925. An equally famous perfume.

The rise of designer brands: The 20th century saw the birth of numerous designer brands such as Yves Saint Laurent, Christian Dior and Estée Lauder, which still dominate the fashion market today. Thanks to Coco Chanel and globalization, these brands branched out of Europe and had a great impact in the United States. It is in this period that haute couture and perfumes become associated, largely inspired by the Hollywood profile.

Between 50 and 60: Perfume becomes democratized with the birth of Eau de Toilette: lighter and easier to wear fragrances.
Patchouli became very present in the 60s with the Hippies, however, haute couture houses stayed away from fashion.

From the 70s to the 2000s: there are those who say that these 30 years were the golden age of perfumery, in which there was still no adequate difference between niche brands and designer brands. Perfumes like Yves Saint Laurent - Kouros and Dior - Poison are still used by millions of people today.
Perfume advertisements with an underlying concept never seemed as important as at that time and are still relevant today.

From the 2000s to today: The 21st century witnessed a huge change in perfumery, which restricted or completely banned certain raw materials. Niche and signature perfumery are still relatively young, but they play a very important role in today's market.
Due to the great competition in the market, a certain decline in the quality and innovation of perfumes has been noticed. During the 2010s, perfume clone brands flooded the market, which brings us to today.
Currently, perfume is considered a basic in the world of beauty, there are those who have a single perfume that seems to be their hallmark, and those who have a fragrance for every occasion.
As for niche perfumery, it is an area that has developed a lot in recent years worldwide, making the concept increasingly relevant and there are even followers who collect this type of perfumes, considered a true olfactory art.


If you are bored with current perfume trends you can always research a little perfume history and explore the world of scents of the past. It is interesting to discover its roots, how perfumery developed and what traditions are maintained to this day.

*Alembic: Device used for the distillation of liquids through an evaporation process. (Aragonese)

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