Among perfumery materials few are so loaded with meaning and associations than animal-derived ones. The glamor of yore feels immersed in the cheetah print of those tailored coats that Hollywood stars wore to get the trash out and one can almost smell the Bal a Versailles parfum off their YSL Le Smoking lapels. Ah...the times when false lashes came out for a night on the town and fire-engine red lipstick was a necessary accessory rather than a summer brights trend...
Animal rights activism has (justifiably) put a lid on that. Additionally, the historical changes brought about by analytical chemistry and the since illegal poaching of some of the critters responsible for some of these elusive, magical essences have created new realities. Fragrances (and cosmetics too) use sophisticated synthetics which replicate the warm, intimate touch of something that used to come from furry behinds.
This has necessitated some detailed information on all the various aspect unto which the critical matter of animal-derived and animal-smelling raw materials touches.
For starters and for a short answer I have written an essay on Fragrance.About.com answering the simple question "Do perfumes contain animal ingredients?"
I also wrote a Musk specific article there called "Musk: Erotic Smell of Warmth & Cleanliness". You can read those hitting the highlighted links.
In the archives of Perfume Shrine over the years I have often belabored the subject as well.
You can reference for instance the following articles:
Animalic & "Skanky" Perfumes
Ambergris (natural) and its comparison with the amber "chord"
Ambroxan: synthetics amber-wood
Musk: natural Tonquin musk and synthetics
The historic Animalis base
Of Bees: Honeyed Scents of Myth (referencing both honey and beeswax, an animal product)
Parfums Fourrure (so called "fur perfumes")
Enjoy the posts!