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Perfume

Perfume

Background

Since the beginning of recorded history, humans have attempted to mask or enhance their own odor by using perfume, which emulates nature's pleasant smells. Many natural and man-made materials have been used to make perfume to apply to the skin and clothing, to put in cleaners and cosmetics, or to scent the air. Because of differences in body chemistry, temperature, and body odors, no perfume will smell exactly the same on any two people.

Perfume comes from the Latin "per" meaning "through" and "fumum," or "smoke." Many ancient perfumes were made by extracting natural oils from plants through pressing and steaming. The oil was then burned to scent the air. Today, most perfume is used to scent bar soaps. Some products are even perfumed with industrial odorants to mask unpleasant smells or to appear "unscented."

While fragrant liquids used for the body are often considered perfume, true perfumes are defined as extracts or essences and contain a percentage of oil distilled in alcohol. Water is also used. The United States is the world's largest perfume market with annual sales totalling several billions of dollars.

History

According to the Bible, Three Wise Men visited the baby Jesus carrying myrrh and frankincense. Ancient Egyptians burned incense called kyphi made of henna, myrrh, cinnamon, and juniperas religious offerings. They soaked aromatic wood, gum, and resins in water and oil and used the liquid as a fragrant body lotion. The early Egyptians also perfumed their dead and often assigned specific fragrances to deities. Their word for perfume has been translated as "fragrance of the gods." It is said that the Moslem prophet Mohammed wrote, "Perfumes are foods that reawaken the spirit."

Eventually Egyptian perfumery influenced the Greeks and the Romans. For hundreds of years after the fall of Rome, perfume was primarily an Oriental art. It spread to Europe when 13th century Crusaders brought back samples from Palestine to England, France, and Italy. Europeans discovered the healing properties of fragrance during the 17th century. Doctors treating plague victims covered their mouths and noses with leather pouches holding pungent cloves, cinnamon, and spices which they thought would protect them from disease.

Perfume then came into widespread use among the monarchy. France's King Louis XIV used it so much that he was called the "perfume king." His court contained a floral pavilion filled with fragrances, and dried flowers were placed in bowls throughout the palace to freshen the air. Royal guests bathed in goat's milk and rose petals. Visitors were often doused with perfume, which also was sprayed on clothing, furniture, walls, and tableware. It was at this time that Grasse, a region of southern France where many flowering plant varieties grow, became a leading producer of perfumes.

Meanwhile, in England, aromatics were contained in lockets and the hollow heads of canes to be sniffed by the owner. It was not until the late 1800s, when synthetic chemicals were used, that perfumes could be mass marketed. The first synthetic perfume was nitrobenzene, made from nitric acid and benzene. This synthetic mixture gave off an almond smell and was often used to scent soaps. In 1868, Englishman William Perkin synthesized coumarin from the South American tonka bean to create a fragrance that smelled like freshly sown hay. Ferdinand Tiemann of the University of Berlin created synthetic violet and vanilla. In the United States, Francis Despard Dodge created citronellolan alcohol with rose-like odorby experimenting with citronella, which is derived from citronella oil and has a lemon-like odor. In different variations, this synthetic compound gives off the scents of sweet pea, lily of the valley, narcissus, and hyacinth.

Just as the art of perfumery progressed through the centuries, so did the art of the perfume bottle. Perfume bottles were often as elaborate and exotic as the oils they contained. The earliest specimens date back to about 1000 b.c. In ancient Egypt, newly invented glass bottles were made largely to hold perfumes. The crafting of perfume bottles spread into Europe and reached its peak in Venice in the 18th century, when glass containers assumed the shape of small animals or had pastoral scenes painted on them. Today perfume bottles are designed by the manufacturer to reflect the character of the fragrance inside, whether light and flowery or dark and musky.

Raw Materials

Natural ingredientsflowers, grasses, spices, fruit, wood, roots, resins, balsams, leaves, gums, and animal secretionsas well as resources like alcohol, petrochemicals, coal, and coal tars are used in the manufacture of perfumes. Some plants, such as lily of the valley, do not produce oils naturally. In fact, only about 2,000 of the 250,000 known flowering plant species contain these essential oils. Therefore, synthetic chemicals must be used to re-create the smells of non-oily substances. Synthetics also create original scents not found in nature.

Some perfume ingredients are animal products. For example, castor comes from beavers, musk from male deer, and ambergris from the sperm whale. Animal substances are often used as fixatives that enable perfume to evaporate slowly and emit odors longer. Other fixatives include coal tar, mosses, resins, or synthetic chemicals. Alcohol and sometimes water are used to dilute ingredients in perfumes. It is the ratio of alcohol to scent that determines whether the perfume is "eau de toilette" (toilet water) or cologne.

The Manufacturing
Process

Collection

  • 1 Before the manufacturing process begins, the initial ingredients must be brought to the manufacturing center. Plant substances are harvested from around the world, often hand-picked for their fragrance. Animal products are obtained by extracting the fatty substances directly from the animal. Aromatic chemicals used in synthetic perfumes are created in the laboratory by perfume chemists.

Extraction

Oils are extracted from plant substances by several methods: steam distillation, solvent extraction, enfleurage, maceration, and expression.

  • 2 In steam distillation, steam is passed through plant material held in a still, whereby the essential oil turns to gas. This gas is then passed through tubes, cooled, and liquified. Oils can also be extracted by boiling plant substances like flower petals in water instead of steaming them.
  • 3 Under solvent extraction, flowers are put into large rotating tanks or drums and benzene or a petroleum ether is poured over the flowers, extracting the essential oils. The flower parts dissolve in the solvents and leave a waxy material that contains the oil, which is then placed in ethyl alcohol. The oil dissolves in the alcohol and rises. Heat is used to evaporate the alcohol, which once fully burned off, leaves a higher concentration of the perfume oil on the bottom.
  • 4 During enfleurage, flowers are spread on glass sheets coated with grease. The glass sheets are placed between wooden frames in tiers. Then the flowers are removed by hand and changed until the grease has absorbed their fragrance.
  • 5 Maceration is similar to enfleurage except that warmed fats are used to soak up the flower smell. As in solvent extraction, the grease and fats are dissolved in alcohol to obtain the essential oils.
  • 6 Expression is the oldest and least complex method of extraction. By this process, now used in obtaining citrus oils from the rind, the fruit or plant is manually or mechanically pressed until all the oil is squeezed out.

Blending

  • 7 Once the perfume oils are collected, they are ready to be blended together according to a formula determined by a master in the field, known as a "nose." It may take as many as 800 different ingredients and several years to develop the special formula for a scent.

    After the scent has been created, it is mixed with alcohol. The amount of alcohol in a scent can vary greatly. Most full perfumes are made of about 10-20% perfume oils dissolved in alcohol and a trace of water. Colognes contain approximately 3-5% oil diluted in 80-90% alcohol, with water making up about 10%. Toilet water has the least amount2% oil in 60-80% alcohol and 20% water.

Aging

  • 8 Fine perfume is often aged for several months or even years after it is blended. Following this, a "nose" will once again test the perfume to ensure that the correct scent has been achieved. Each essential oil and perfume has three notes: "Notes de tete," or top notes, "notes de coeur," central or heart notes, and "notes de fond," base notes. Top notes have tangy or citrus-like smells; central notes (aromatic flowers like rose and jasmine) provide body, and base notes (woody fragrances) provide an enduring fragrance. More "notes," of various smells, may be further blended.

Quality Control

Because perfumes depend heavily on harvests of plant substances and the availability of animal products, perfumery can often turn risky. Thousands of flowers are needed to obtain just one pound of essential oils, and if the season's crop is destroyed by disease or adverse weather, perfumeries could be in jeopardy. In addition, consistency is hard to maintain in natural oils. The same species of plant raised in several different areas with slightly different growing conditions may not yield oils with exactly the same scent.

Problems are also encountered in collecting natural animal oils. Many animals once killed for the value of their oils are on the endangered species list and now cannot be hunted. For example, sperm whale products like ambergris have been outlawed since 1977. Also, most animal oils in general are difficult and expensive to extract. Deer musk must come from deer found in Tibet and China; civet cats, bred in Ethiopia, are kept for their fatty gland secretions; beavers from Canada and the former Soviet Union are harvested for their castor.

Synthetic perfumes have allowed perfumers more freedom and stability in their craft, even though natural ingredients are considered more desirable in the very finest perfumes. The use of synthetic perfumes and oils eliminates the need to extract oils from animals and removes the risk of a bad plant harvest, saving much expense and the lives of many animals.

The Future

Perfumes today are being made and used in different ways than in previous centuries. Perfumes are being manufactured more and more frequently with synthetic chemicals rather than natural oils. Less concentrated forms of perfume are also becoming increasingly popular. Combined, these factors decrease the cost of the scents, encouraging more widespread and frequent, often daily, use.

Using perfume to heal, make people feel good, and improve relationships between the sexes are the new frontiers being explored by the industry. The sense of smell is considered a right brain activity, which rules emotions, memory, and creativity. Aromatherapysmelling oils and fragrances to cure physical and emotional problemsis being revived to help balance hormonal and body energy. The theory behind aromatherapy states that using essential oils helps bolster the immune system when inhaled or applied topically. Smelling sweet smells also affects one's mood and can be used as a form of psychotherapy.

Like aromatherapy, more research is being conducted to synthesize human perfumethat is, the body scents we produce to attract or repel other humans. Humans, like other mammals, release pheromones to attract the opposite sex. New perfumes are being created to duplicate the effect of pheromones and stimulate sexual arousal receptors in the brain. Not only may the perfumes of the future help people cover up "bad" smells, they could improve their physical and emotional well-being as well as their sex lives.

Where To Learn More

Periodicals

Bylinsky, Gene. "Finally, A Good Aphrodisiac?" Fortune, October 21, 1991, p. 18.

Green, Timothy. "Making Scents Is More Complicated Than You Think." Smithsonian, June 1991, pp. 52-60.

Iverson, Annemarie. "Ozone." Harper's Bazaar, November 1993, pp. 208-40.

Lord, Shirley. "Message In a Bottle." Vogue, May 1992, p. 220.

Raphael, Anna. "Ahh! Aromatherapy." Delicious!, December 1994, pp. 47-48.

Evelyn S. Dorman

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perfume

perfume is used for a wide variety of purposes: aesthetic, religious, culinary, and medicinal, among others. Traditionally perfumes were made from plant and animal substances and prepared in the form of waters, oils, unguents, powders, and incense. This last method of fragrancing gives us our word ‘perfume’ which means ‘to smoke through’. Most modern perfumes are alcohol-based and contain synthetic scents. While the term ‘perfume’ usually refers to fragrances in general, in the more technical language of the perfumer, a perfume must contain over 15% of fragrance oils in alcohol. Eau de parfum, eau de toilette, and cologne contain lesser amounts of fragrance oils in alcohol diluted with water.

The preferred fragrances for perfumes are by no means universal, but differ according to cultural dictates and fashions. In the sixteenth century, for example, pungent animal scents such as musk and civet were very popular. In the nineteenth century, by contrast, such animal scents were generally considered too crude, and light floral fragrances were favoured.

Perfumes were held in high esteem and widely employed in the ancient world. The wealthy would perfume not only their own bodies, but their furnishings and their favourite horses and dogs. On ancient altars perfumes were offered to the gods, while in the kitchens of antiquity the same scents — saffron, cinnamon, rose, myrrh — might be used to flavour food and wine.

With the rise of Christianity, perfumes became associated with a decadent lifestyle which catered to bodily desires rather than to spiritual necessities. Many of the early Church Fathers condemned the use of perfume as ‘a bait which draws us into sensual lusts’. While disdaining the use of perfumes, however, the Church employed metaphors of fragrance to refer to the spiritual life. Prayer, for example, was presented as a symbolic form of incense, while the Christian soul was a ‘perfumed garden’ of grace. Such metaphors acquired a certain physical reality in the phenomenon of the ‘odour of sanctity’, whereby holy persons were believed to exhale a divine fragrance.

By the end of the Middle Ages, perfumes were once again enormously popular in social life. Those who could afford it perfumed their clothes, as well as their bodies, and wore gloves and shoes made out of perfumed leather. Even jewellery might be perfumed, or else fashioned of beads of hardened perfume. In the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries the Puritans and other Protestant reformers, following the ascetic doctrines of the early Christians, denounced this indulgence in scent as contributing to an immoral lifestyle and disguising an underlying stench of sin.

Along with offering pleasing scents, perfumes had many practical uses in premodernity. Perfumes were believed to play a role both in preserving health and curing disease. Thus the ancient poet Alexis decreed that ‘the best recipe for health is to apply sweet scents unto the brain.’ The ancients employed a variety of herbal scents to treat different ailments. The fragrance of mint, for example, was thought to ease a stomach ache. Perfumes might also be applied directly to a wound to relieve inflamation and counter the ill odour of decay.

In the Middle Ages and later perfumes played a particularly important role during periods of plague. According to contemporary theories, plagues were caused by corrupt air, and transmitted from person to person through smell. The best ways to prevent such olfactory contagion were to avoid coming into contact with infectious odours and to counter the odours of disease with other pungent smells, such as perfumes and incense. The pomander — a small perforated container filled with spices and herbs and worn on the body — was meant to provide a continuous fragrant shield against disease.

In the late eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, however, many of the hitherto practical uses of perfume fell out of favour. As bathing became more popular, perfumes were no longer needed to mask stale body odours. The medicinal value of perfume was also questioned. Perfumes, in fact, were sometimes decried by physicians as actually leading to disease by clogging pores, or by enfeebling the mind and body through their vapours. The development of germ theory in the late 1800s largely put to rest the age-old idea of corrupt odours as agents of infection. Perfumes, consequently, were no longer considered by the medical profession to either prevent or cure disease.

The aesthetic use of perfume also declined during the same period. This was due in part to a backlash prompted by the French Revolution against the perfumed, luxurious lifestyle of the aristocracy. Furthermore, the rise of industrial capitalism encouraged the accumulation and display of tangible goods. In this culture of the concrete, the evanescent nature of perfumes made them a ‘bad buy’. Countering this materialist trend were various nineteenth-century artistic and literary movements, notably that of the Symbolists, which lauded perfumes as stimuli to the imagination.

During the nineteenth century, perfumes, which had previously been worn by both sexes, became increasingly restricted to women. The supposedly frivolous nature of perfume was deemed to make fragrance more suitable for ‘frivolous’ women than for ‘serious’ men. Sweet floral scents, in particular, were considered appropriate for women, while men, if they wore any scent at all, were offered woodsy or spicy fragrances.

In the late twentieth century a number of developments have influenced the cultural role of perfumes. The growth of ‘consumer capitalism’, with its emphasis on enjoyment, rather than mere accumulation, of goods, has led to a surge in perfume use. While perfumes are still considered primarily the domain of women, the market for men's perfumes is continually expanding. Research is also being undertaken on how the selective employment of fragrances may influence behaviour, stimulating office workers to work more effectively or shoppers to buy more products. Finally, the medicinal use of perfume has made a comeback in the contemporary practice of aromatherapy, which utilizes fragrant essential oils to treat a range of physical and psychological ailments. These trends towards increased perfume use, however, are currently being combatted by an anti-perfume movement, which argues that many people find perfumes irritating and allergenic, and agitates for an ‘odour-free’ environment.

Constance Classen

Bibliography

Classen, C.,, Howes, D.,, and and Synnott, A. (1994). Aroma: the cultural history of smell. Routledge, London.

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perfume

perfume, aroma produced by the essential oils of plants and by synthetic aromatics. The burning of incense that accompanied the religious rites of ancient China, Palestine, and Egypt led gradually to the personal use of perfume. In Greece, where flower scents were first developed, the use of perfume became widespread. In Rome perfume was used extravagantly. During the Middle Ages the Crusaders brought the knowledge of perfumery back to Europe from the East. It was at this time that animal substances were first added as fixatives—musk, ambergris, civet, and castoreum (from the beaver). Italian perfumers settled in Paris (after 1500), and thereafter France became the leader of the industry. After 1500 scents became fashionable; both men and women wore an ornamental pomander or pouncet-box (dry-scent box), which hung from the waist. Each wealthy household had a "still room" where perfume was prepared by the women. Since the early 19th cent., chemists have analyzed many essential oils and have produced thousands of synthetics, some imitating natural products and others yielding new scents. Most perfumes today are blends of natural and synthetic scents and of fixatives that equalize vaporization of the blends and add pungency. The ingredients are usually combined with alcohol for liquid scents and with fatty bases for many cosmetics. Leading producers of perfume oils are the East Indies, Réunion island, and S France. Bulgaria and Turkey are noted for attar of roses, Algeria for geranium oils, Italy for citrus oils, and England for lavender and mint. The great fashion houses of Paris are renowned for perfumes that carry their names. See eau de Cologne.

See E. Sagarin, The Science and Art of Perfumery (2d ed. 1955); R. Genders, Perfume through the Ages (1972).

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"perfume." The Columbia Encyclopedia, 6th ed.. . Encyclopedia.com. 27 Jul. 2017 <http://www.encyclopedia.com>.

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Perfume

Perfume

Smelling good was of great concern to the ancient Greeks. But without running water, their techniques for freshening themselves were different than modern methods of bathing and showering. Men and women washed themselves with a cloth and a bowl of water or by rubbing olive oil on their skin, scraping it off with a metal rod called a strigil, and rinsing with cold water. Once clean, Greeks would apply perfumes all over their skin and hair.

To make perfume Greeks soaked spices and other fragrant flowers and herbs in warm oil until the oil took on a pleasant scent. They would then strain the ingredients from the oil and use the perfumed oil alone or mix it with a sticky gum to make a thicker perfumed cream. Cinnamon, basil, marjoram, almonds, roses, lavender, and lilies were popular fragrances for perfume. Greeks kept their perfume in beautifully decorated glass or ceramic bottles or carved alabaster vials hung as pendants from chains around their necks.

FOR MORE INFORMATION

Crosher, Judith. Technology in the Time of Ancient Greece. Austin, TX: Raintree Steck-Vaughn, 1998.

Symons, David J. Costume of Ancient Greece. New York: Chelsea House, 1987.

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perfume

per·fume / ˈpərˌfyoōm; ˌpərˈfyoōm/ • n. a fragrant liquid typically made from essential oils extracted from flowers and spices, used to impart a pleasant smell to one's body or clothes: I caught a whiff of her fresh lemony perfume | musk-based perfumes. ∎  a pleasant smell: the heady perfume of lilacs. • v. [tr.] impart a pleasant smell to: just one bloom of jasmine has the power to perfume a whole room. ∎  (usu. be perfumed) impregnate (something) with perfume or a sweet-smelling ingredient: the cream is perfumed with rosemary and iris extracts. ∎  apply perfume to (someone or something): her hair was oiled and perfumed. DERIVATIVES: per·fum·y / -mē/ adj.

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perfume

perfume Substance that produces a pleasing fragrance. The scents of such plants as rose, citrus, lavender, and sandalwood are obtained from their essential oils. These are blended with a fixative of animal origin, such as musk, ambergris or civet. Liquid perfumes are usually alcoholic solutions containing 10–25% of the perfume concentrate; colognes and toilet waters contain about 2–6% of the concentrate.

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perfume

perfume odorous vapour, (fragrance of) liquid scent. XVI. In early use also par-, but regularly assim. to PER-, — F. parfum, f. par-, †perfumer (whence perfume vb. XVI) — It. †par-, †perfumare (now pro-), lit. smoke through; see PER-1, FUME.
Hence perfumery XVIII.

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perfume

perfumeabloom, assume, backroom, bloom, Blum, boom, broom, brume, combe, consume, doom, entomb, exhume, flume, foredoom, fume, gloom, groom, Hume, illume, inhume, Khartoum, khoum, loom, neume, perfume, plume, presume, resume, rheum, room, spume, subsume, tomb, vroom, whom, womb, zoom •catacomb • heirloom • broadloom •taproom • guardroom • staffroom •darkroom • classroom • bathroom •bedroom, headroom •legroom • restroom •dayroom, playroom •saleroom • stateroom • salesroom •tearoom • green room • sickroom •anteroom • bridegroom • stockroom •strongroom • box room • washroom •storeroom • boardroom • ballroom •courtroom • houseroom • showroom •cloakroom • elbow room •poolroom, schoolroom •newsroom •gunroom, sunroom •mushroom • common room •workroom • hecatomb • vacuum •legume • volume • costume •Leverhulme

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