Perfumes serve many admirable purposes, but their reputation for catching (and holding) a love interest's attention has forever been the most popular one, for better or for worse. I elaborated previously on the Victorian perfume buttons and today I'm going to present you with more historical curios. In the meantime contemporary makers of scent objects haven't been idle either and in fact we have a delightful giveaway for real Swarowski pens which serve also as atomizers for perfume (so you can spray perfume with your pen!), so if you missed that post check it out and enter a comment for a chance to win one for yourself!
And now, on to the world of Jane Austen and those Regency styled images…
During the Georgian era the popularization of Eau de Cologne meant no more oily residue for perfumes, so the process of wearing scented accessories was rather easy compared to the thick unguents of prior times. The 19th century gentleman specifically was catered by the likes of Juan Famenias Floris and his lightweight and elegant scented toiletries (Floris notoriously provided the emblematic Regency dandy, Beau Brummel), a tradition that would make novelist Jane Austen have her heroine Emma judge Frank Churchill's desire to travel "sixteen miles twice over" to just have his hair cut and groomed in London as "foppery and nonsense".
What is less know is that in Regency times the tradition of perfumed rings came into being, no doubt a distant cousin of the poison rings that pervaded the European courts during the 15th and 16th century (and which allowed for the swift disposal of enemies by the careful administering of various poisons ~always at the reach of a hand!~ into the drinks and food of those partaking in a feast). But perfume rings were decidedly benevolent.
It would be no exaggeration to claim that perfume rings at the time are solely handled by the ladies. For the gentlemen the rings of the Elizabethan portraits, which almost click and clank due to their sheer profusion, are a thing of the past; the signet ring (a single ring which serves essentially as a beautifully mounted seal, distinctive enough for signing one's correspondence, as well as an anti-counterfeit measure) rules the day. Women on the other hand had the benefit of using the ring in more cunning ways. As the tradition of gentlemen bowing to lightly kiss the ladies' hands was rampant, the design of the perfume ring allowed for liquid and fragrant pomade to seep through tiny cuts and holes into the material, therefore aromatizing not only the lady in question, but also the giver of the kiss on the hand.
For lovers the motif of the heart reigned even back then, dating back to the fide rings of the Middle Ages (fide from Latin for faith). Its natural progression was the Claddagh ring, which has the heart surmounted by a crown held by a pair of hands, and which by the way that is worn denotes whether the person wearing it is single or bespoken. The rings took on other popular early 19th century love themes: Cupid and Psyche (a tale taken from Greek mythology); turtle-doves, usually in pairs, sacred to the goddess Venus; clinging evergreen ivy, forget-me-nots or pansies (oddly enough a non fragrant flower but very popular during the 19th century); or the bezel-set rings with a clock dial whereupon the gem is mounted on the number 12 and the inscription temps nous joindra (time will bring us together again) in the hoop, popular for lovers kept apart for any length of time.
Obviously the rings did not contain all those symbols and uses together!
The use of perfume lockets/padlocks, where curls of silky hair were included for safekeeping between lovers, was also in use, but the repercussions were less flirty than the ring, which by the sheer movement of the hand meant a detonation of its perfumed message….