Who’s to say stone age women didn’t rub their skin with aromatic flowers to tickle the smell buds? With the critical need for well developed senses back in the day, it’s certainly a possibility. It’s also probable that ancient shamans incorporated fragrance into their religious rituals. Throughout history perfume has been used not only to enhance sexuality and beauty but for sacred and spiritual purposes as well. Think incense! Aromatics were also invaluable in the art of embalming and other processes involved in the laying to rest of the earthly body. I use perfume in its most expansive sense, though technically perfume has a distillation strength of 5 to 1 essential oil when compared to the less potent concoction of cologne.
1) Origin: We know the ancient Egyptians engaged in the art of perfume making, as did people in ancient Mesopotamia and India. Perfume and incense making were also highly developed in the Far East. The oldest known perfume factory to date was discovered by archeologists on the Mediterranean island of Cyprus. The Persians took perfumery to a high level, and some of their methods are still viable today.
2) Ingredients: Elements used in ancient perfumes included spices such as cinnamon and cardamom, herbs like rosemary and sage, frankincense and myrrh resins, animal musk, and oils distilled from roses, jasmine, and other flowers. Samael, the hero in my paranormal romance Guardian of the Deep, wears the masculine, magnetic scent of coriander.
3) Couture: Chanel No. 5, one of the most famous perfumes in the word, was created in 1921 for fashion designer Coco Chanel. A recent biography contends she was an agent for the propagation of the Nazi agenda. My mother loved Chanel No. 5 and, honestly, who doesn’t? Perfumes in this part of the century were considered high couture for the likes of glamorous movie stars, socialites, and the crème de la crème. Other perfumes of a similar time period were My Sin, Arpege, and Shalimar.
4) Accessibility: After WWII, the creation of scents for everyday women became big business. One of these was Tweed by Lentheric. My mother had this one as well, and I loved to dab on strong, amber hued Tweed as a winter fragrance.
5) On the Corner: In the late 1950’s reasonable prices sold cauldrons of perfumes from the venue of dime stores and drug stores. These sales included the first scent I bought as a birthday gift for my mother – a small cobalt blue bottle of Evening in Paris.
6) Avon Calling: Speaking of everywoman, we must jump back to 1886 to see the origin of a company that created a business model unique from other perfume houses. Through its bevy of direct sales representatives, Avon offered women the opportunity to operate their own businesses at a time when females were few and far between in the work force. Mrs. Albee was the first Avon lady. Continuing to grow, by the 1950’s Avon brought affordable Hollywood glamour into the home of everyday women.
7) Avon Favorites: I have fond memories of a tall yellow bottle of Topaze, topped by a marvelous golden “gemstone.” I was drawn to that, although Here’s My Heart is what Mama actually bought me. In the 1970’s my mother’s favorite became Charisma in its bold red bottle, and mystically named Moonwind, in a beautiful blue bottle, was mine. Other favorites are exotic Imari and Timeless, pictured above as a jar of creamy skin softener, along with some of my mother’s Avon jewelry. I also liked the sweet, frothy scent of Pavi Elle. It reminded me of a vanilla cream cake. On my husband I loved Black Suede and Wild Country—yum!
One of my favorite scents in the whole world is violet. I have a passion for violet incense, and I’d adore to own a high falutin’ violet perfume. Now it’s your turn. What are your favorite fragrances?
Cheers & Happy Reading!
Flossie Benton Rogers, Conjuring the Magic with Paranormal Fantasy Romance