The ancient Egyptians adored body oils. Plain and unscented, oils became an integral part of daily life, particularly because of the dry and arid climate.
These oils became much more luxurious when fragrance was added – a perfume practice that was incredibly popular in Egypt. Cleopatra herself was said to have owned the first beauty spa which was actually a perfume factory. Even her attempts to woo Marc Antony involved the use of perfumed sails, wafting the scent of an incensed aphrodisiac through the air.
It is no surprise that an early form of solid perfume was documented in ancient Egypt. These unguents were created with the addition of beeswax or other thick and creamy substances.
And then there were the elusive perfume cones of the Egyptian Empire (also known as the New Kingdom). Numerous drawings from the era display Egyptian people with an object resembling a beehive or cone sitting on their heads. After researching said cones – what at first glance appears to be a symbolic fashion accessory – it was discovered that these were actually waxy, meltable forms of solid perfume.
The Egyptians combined perfume cones with celebration and feasts, often supplying guests with the right scent to set the tone for the event. The cones were placed on top of their wigs and, when the heat from both their bodies and the climate took effect, they would melt out onto the hair and head, releasing pleasant aroma.
Not a lot of information remains regarding the perfume cones. We do not know for sure how they were concocted, or even how they were attached to the head. Some experiments have concluded that a mixture of beeswax and animal fats may not melt so easily or carry fragrance quite well, and other research suspects the use of shea butter.
The size of the perfume cone may in fact be exaggerated in drawings. Instead, they may have been a simple glob of perfumed fat placed on the head.
Regardless of its composition, the purpose and function of these ancient solid perfumes resembles that of modern times. These were fragrances trapped in a solid matter that would melt and release their aroma when met with body heat. And, they were meant to scent an individual in a more pleasing manner.
In modern times, the first company to produce and sell solid perfume was Molinard in 1925 with their “Concreta” range.
Unlike most modern solid perfumes where fragrance is mixed with beeswax or other wax base, the Concreta solids were composed of the genuine wax from the flowers, making them extremely concentrated.
Throughout most of the 20th century, however, spray and liquid-based perfumes prevailed, with not many companies investing in solid, balm versions of fragrance. It is only in recent years that solid perfumes, and other perfume alternatives such as powders and towelettes, have popularized again.
A good reason for these changes is most likely due to the increased competition in the perfume industry, with more boutique producers entering the market, along with the growing DIY crowd providing eco-friendly, natural, and more portable options. Tougher restrictions on liquid toiletries when flying has further increased need for solid perfumes, such as those provided right here at Aroamas.
Please note this article was produced to the best of our ability and is in no way a complete history of perfumes and fragrance. Sources and further reading: