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Fragrance Through the Ages
FragrancePeople have used perfumes, oils and unguents throughout history as part of religious ceremonies, rituals or solely on the whims of fashion. Perfumed balms, tree resins and plants steeped in oils were widely used, and products that enhance the scent of the body or the texture of the skin have been valued in every culture. The ancient Egyptians, the courtesans of France, and women and men today have searched for unique scents to please themselves as well as others.

The expansion of trade routes introduced spices into other parts of the world where more people could create a wider range of scents. The art of perfumery prospered in Renaissance Italy, and then Italian refinements were taken to France in the 16th century. What has today grown into a $10 billion industry began in the late 19th century as advances in organic chemistry allowed the creation of new scents and the distillation of synthetic ingredients to replace expensive or difficult to find essences.

The name Coty is inextricably linked to the perfume industry. François Coty not only realized the importance of presenting a high quality product in a beautiful package, but he knew it must be reasonably priced as well; though marketed as a luxury, perfume had to be affordable to people of every socio-economic status. In the early 1900s, Coty initiated two new genres of perfumery: soft, sweet floral and chypre, or Cyprus. While many perfumers were cautious of new aroma-chemicals due to their strong odors, Coty recognized the great potential in new materials, which allowed him to create the truly original L’Origan, which combined traditional essences such as bergamot, neroli and ylang ylang with new floral bases and synthetics.

A musical metaphor is used to describe perfume, in that a fragrance is said to have three sets of ‘notes,’ which unfold over time as it begins to dissipate. Top notes are noticed immediately upon application and consist of small, light molecules, which quickly evaporate, leading into the mid notes, which emerge just prior to the dissipation of the top notes, and form the main body of the perfume. Base notes emerge close to the departure of mid notes, usually about 30 minutes after application, and with the mid note, form the main theme of the fragrance.

Today, the fragrance industry is not only dominated by giants like Vera Wang, Kenneth Cole and Calvin Klein, but brands such as Clean, L’Occitane and Marc Jacobs have dedicated followings. With the recent popularity of celebrity fragrances, we’ve seen offerings from the likes of Gwen Stefani and Sarah Jessica Parker.

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