Exploring the obscure – my journey

New ways to study the historical fragrances and cosmetics

I have been receiving requests for annotated recipes, recipe translations and free samples of fragrances and cosmetics.

I have decided to offer another way to learn about the fragrant past for those who are more interested in the recipes themselves than the general information.

Welcome to my Patreon options!


You can currently choose from three options. For those interested in studying recipes, I recommend the Tier Two, Recipe Treasure Trove. Every month a new recipe with detailed notes and plenty of pictures will be available to the subscribers. This level will also offer monthly live Q&A sessions so I can answer any question, comment or concern.

Tier Three, the Fragrant Wonders, offers additional benefits like monthly one-on-one conversation, available via phone call or video call (with current choice of Zoom or Whatsapp). Patrons at the Tier Three who have an active subscription for three consecutive months, will receive the fragrant products, based on the recipes from previous three-months period. These will be the full size products, which will allow for in-depth analysis of the relevant recipe.

I will continue to offer free classes both online and in-person. My in-person displays are always free. And if anyone wishes to purchase perfume samples or other fragrances, my Etsy store is open: https://www.etsy.com/shop/TreasuresofTrecio?ref=simple-shop-header-name&listing_id=1378714555

Try historical fragrances and support my pursuits in experimental archaeology of fragrances

This is a very shameless promotion of my Etsy store.

Addressed to those who like to try historical fragrances but do not wish to bother with making them.

New Year sale is on till January 7th, 2023.

Buy 3 or more products, and receive 20% discount on your purchase.

Sales from my store (after taxes and fees), fund my experimental archaeology pursuits, including rare ingredients, books, conference fees and site fees & travel expenses for events where I display my fragrances.


Enjoying the the bird-shaped incense from 16th century Italy
Southern Liang incense
Pounding the paste for an incense blend
Rosatum incense
Liliaceum incense

Event cancelled!!!

I regret to inform that this event is cancelled. We were unsuccessful in recruiting enough teachers to make this symposium happen.

It is the time again for That’s a Beautiful Event: Even Better!
Second Perfumery, Beauty Care and Adornment Virtual Symposium!

FEBRUARY 24TH-26TH, 2023.

We look for classes related to the following topics (up to early 17th century):

  • perfumery
  • jewelry used for adornments
  • beauty care (defined as skin / teeth / body care)
  • bathing / baths / pleasure gardens
  • haircare / hair styling / hair pieces and wigs / hair adornments
  • makeup
  • soap making / laundry / stain removal
  • permanent (tattoos / tooth inlays) and temporary body embellishments (henna art)
  • sumptuary laws regarding beauty and adornments
  • spice and aromatics trade
  • review of fashion and style (“the look book”) for diverse cultures and times

If you are interested in teaching, please send the basic information (class title, short description, required time slot, targeted audience – if addressed to adults only, your preferred SCA and daily name, and best contact information) to our class coordinator, Berakha bat Mira v’Shlomo (Instructor Search Coordinator) at 214469@members.eastkingdom.org

You can also directly submit your class using this link: https://sites.google.com/view/beautifulevent/instructor-sign-up

There is no fee for this event.

Reconstructing the scents of the past

In March of 2021 I had the opportunity to present my reconstructions of historical fragrances at the12th Experimental Archaeology Conference: World Tour.

Here is the link to the short talk dedicated to perfumes of Greco-Roman antiquity and the early Islamic states. It is a very basic introduction to ingredients and methods used to prepare fragrances in the past.

Spreading the knowledge of historical perfumery and cosmetics – available talks

The current list of talks I can offer:

This is the short introduction to the perfumery of the western world (3 parts)

1. Historical Perfumery in the West. From The Bronze Age To Classical Antiquity (90 minutes)

Part 1 of course dedicated to the earliest perfumery history in the western world. I will cover both written sources and archaeological discoveries.

2. Historical Perfumery in the West. How To Be Like Empress Zoe (Eastern Empire) (90 minutes)

Part 2 of the course dedicated to the historical perfumery in the western world. We will discuss the fragrant world of the Eastern Empire (Byzantium). By the way, Empress Zoe was known for her young looks and passion for creating her own perfumes. And driving mad her courtiers and eunuchs who spent a lot of time grinding and mixing her concoctions…

3. Historical Perfumery in the West. Late Medieval And Renaissance Recipes (90 minutes)

Part 3 of the course dedicated to the history of the perfumery in the western world. We will discuss late medieval and Renaissance recipes which survived both in materia medica and book of secrets texts. Be prepared for plenty of musk and other animalistic odors.

4. The perfumery handbook of Al-Zahrawi or how to perfume everyone and everything in 11th century Al-Andalus (120 minutes)

Al-Zahrawi (or Albucasis) is mostly known as author of major medical texts, but he was also renowned for his work on perfumery and beauty care. This class will discuss the basics of the early Arabic perfumery that shaped Albucasis’ approach to aromatherapy and fragrances. We will also cover major aromatics used in 10th century, technology of production of incense, fragrant oils/waters and the many varieties of fragrances used by elites of Al-Andalus.

5. Ramik, sukk and galiyah – the amazing scents of early Islamic states (2 hours)

The art of perfumery in early Muslim states influenced the use of fragrances from Byzantium to Song Dynasty China. I will cover the aromatics used in perfumery (including carryovers from antiquity and new imports), the methods of fragrance preparation, sources for recipes, and the view of contemporary authors on fragrance use in daily life. As a bonus, I will discuss the preparation of a few basic fragrances like sukk (a compound ingredients used in many recipes), bukhur (compound incense) and duhn of ben (a scented oil preparation). The modern substitute for major aromatics will be also included.

6. Roman cosmetics – archaeological extant samples and how to make them (60 minutes)

We know a lot about Roman cosmetics from literary works and figurative art. But the neglected part are the extant samples of cosmetics found within the Roman territories. I will discuss the archaeological discoveries and methods which can be used for recreation. Warning: some cosmetics are toxic and can be only used as part of display.

7. Roman makeup – a survey based on literary and archaeological sources (120 minutes)

A survey of makeup products used by the wealthy women and by the not so affluent. I will also discuss tools and methods used for making the cosmetics and applying the makeup.

8. Everything red, purple and pink – a survey of historical color cosmetics for lips and cheeks (60 minutes).

The shades of red, pink and purple were always considered attractive to the human eye and pigments like red earth (iron oxide) were among first used for purpose of face adornment. I will present a survey of historical cosmetics in shades of red, purple and pink, from Bronze Age to 16th century. We will visit ancient Sumer, Egypt, Rome and its territories, China, and we will end up our journey in Renaissance Europe.

9. Renaissance perfumes – a practical approach (this is a class on starting own still room in the kitchen) (90 minutes)

This class will cover an introduction to perfumery in Renaissance Europe and best ways to start own journey into the art of compounding historical fragrances. I will discuss reputable sources of aromatics, cheapest way to start your own still room and safety precautions.

10. ‘Divine Beads, Beads from the Paradise’ – introduction to historical fragrant jewelry (90 minutes)

Fragrant jewelry made of aromatics appeared quite early though it is hard to find extant artefacts because of their fragility. We will visit ancient Rome, early Islamic caliphates, medieval China, and Renaissance Italy to have a look at recreated fragrant beads and pomanders.

11. Sticky stuff – binders used in Chinese fragrances (60 minutes)

There is much more to binders than just honey or plum pulp. Several plant-based ingredients were used as binders which is a unique tradition of Chinese fragrance technology. Each binder will be discussed in a context of a specific fragrance recipe. This class requires some familiarity with methods used in making traditional incense blends in the Far East Asia.

12. Tea – another look at the bitter herb (60 minutes)

Tea throughout Chinese history was used as medicine (directly or indirectly to prepare other ingredients), or as beverage. It was served in multitude of styles – as a thick beverage with milk and meat during the early period, as sweetened pills to quench thirst, to the exquisite flavored teas during Song Dynasty period (960 – 1279) though it was not our Earl Grey. I will discuss the various uses of tea and the proper way to prepare the flavored tea.

13. The art of perfumery in ancient Rome (90 minutes)

This class is dedicated to the perfumery in ancient Rome. We will discuss the aromatics used and their sources, methods used for preparation and contemporary views on perfuming. I will cover both written sources and archaeological discoveries.

This series of talks is a survey of perfumery traditions in pre-imperial and imperial China, and will cover the period from Warring States period to early 17th century (3 parts)

14. Perfumery handbook of China. The beginnings (Warring States period to Tang Dynasty) (90 minutes)

This talk covers the earliest olfactory traditions and the progress as new ideas and ingredients started to arrive in China with the opening of Han Dynasty China to foreign influences. It is a fascinating journey from simple bitter herbs use to complex blends, heavily influenced by Indian, and eventually Arabic perfumery.

15. Perfumery handbook of China. Dragon’s brain, dragon’s spittle – the exquisite fragrances of China’s Song Dynasty (90 minutes)

The art of incense compounding reached its height during Song Dynasty. The influences of Indian states and Muslim caliphates’ perfumery traditions were blended with Chinese aesthetics to create the most unique scents in Chinese history. No wonder that at least two emperors of Song were accused of spending more time on compounding new incense blends than on governing. It was also a period when incense compounding split into the art pursued by aristocracy and ‘democratic’ cheap blends accessible for the less affluent populace. We will discuss ingredients and their origins, the extant recipe sources and dissect a few recipes, showing the variety of fragrances available during this period.

16. Perfumery handbook of China. Fragrances of conquest dynasties to Ming Dynasty (90 minutes)

During the period of division and unrest (conquest dynasties of Liao-Jin-Western Xia-Yuan), the Chinese olfactory traditions were spread to the northern tribes as the books, physicians, and aromatics traveled to the newly established states. Many aromatics were exported at massive scale from China to the western world, especially during the Yuan rule. With the reestablishment of Han ruling family (Ming Dynasty), the olfactory traditions were consolidated and the division into the ‘high’ art of incense blending and ‘low’ type production of cheap incense for the masses was finalized. Some of the major written works on fragrances and materia medica were completed during this period, and we are lucky to have them still available.

17. Fragrances in early Japan (120 minutes) 

I will present a short introduction to the history of fragrance use for health, beauty, and pleasure in early Japan.  We will also take a closer look at some recipes, including the kneaded incense (takimono), and pills to perfume the body.

The talks are available free of charge for the non-profit organization (offered online through the Zoom platform).

In-person lectures combined with displays and fragrance/cosmetics testing are available at a very limited basis in US and Poland (I do not travel much – not enough vacation time or funds for travel).

Historical perfumery online course

Learn the basics of historical perfumery at your own pace, in the comfort of your own kitchen/still room/whatever place you prefer.

We have currently 12 fragrances posted, each with step by step instructions. I cover not only the fragrance itself, but also details on preparation of compound ingredients needed to recreate it. And we have also our first beauty care recipe!

This is the list of the current fragrances:

#1 Telinon – a fenugreek oil made according to Pedanius Diocorides recipe.

Stypsis – the process of making oil receptive for perfumes of antiquity.

#2 Krocinon – a saffron oil made according to Pedanius Diocorides recipe.

#3 Linden perfume– a fragrant oil from Mochlos, Crete, ~1500 BCE.

#4 Perfumed powder for rubbing body before bath – from 9th century India, made according to recipe from ‘Haramekhala’ by Mahuka.

#5 Perfumed water from 16th century Venice – made according to recipe from ‘Notandissimi secreti de l’arte profumatoria’ by Giovanventura Rossetti, 1555 edition.

Sampling the perfumed water from Venice.

#6 Incense shaped like small birds – from recipe included in ‘’I secreti de la signora Isabella Cortese: ne’qvali si contengono cose minerali, medicinali, arteficiose, & alchimiche, & molte de l’arte profumatoria, appartenenti a ogni gran signora : con altri bellissimi secreti aggiunti’’ by Isabella Cortese, 1565 edition.

The rose-scented carbone di salice.
I am not a talented artist – these are really the ugliest birds possible.

#7 Imperial Courtyard Incense – from Song Dynasty China, made according to recipe from Chen’s ‘Fragrances.’

#8 Perfect Royal Oil – made from recipe included in ‘’I secreti de la signora Isabella Cortese : ne’qvali si contengono cose minerali, medicinali, arteficiose, & alchimiche, & molte de l’arte profumatoria, appartenenti a ogni gran signora : con altri bellissimi secreti aggiunti’’ by Isabella Cortese, 1665 edition.

#9 Rhodides – spicy rose petal beads made according to Pedanius Diocorides recipe (translation by Lily Beck).

Necklace made of faux coral and rhodides beads

#10 Incense for moist method of scenting clothes – redacted from recipe by Wang Tao, Tang Dynasty China.

Preparing opercula the Tang Dynasty way.

#11  “Celestial being” kneaded incense – recipe #5 from ‘Secret Recipes for Blending Fragrances’ text from Yōmei Bunko collection.

#12 “New Pillow” kneaded incense – recipe # 45 from ‘Secret Recipes for Blending Fragrances’ text from Yōmei Bunko collection.

Beauty care recipes

#1 Face treatment – Goji berry night mask from Imperial Grace Formulary (982), a Chinese materia medica text which was a staple at the Goryeo court.

Goji berry face mask

Come and join us! Brag about your creations! We love pictures!

I let the members of the group decide what fragrances are desired next. I post surveys on regular basis, and the fragrance with most votes is the next one to be redacted.

This is the link: https://www.facebook.com/groups/807436473052978

‘My’ dream event

That’s a Beautiful Event –

The Perfumery, Beauty Care and Adornment Virtual Symposium

Update: the event schedule is up!


I have been long thinking about an event combing all my favorite topics on perfumery, beauty care and adornments.

And it is happening this December, Friday the 4th to Sunday the 6th, 2020.

This is a virtual event (Zoom platform), and free for all to attend. No preregistration is required, we only ask the participants to obey the rules of mutual respect (no bullying, harassment or obscene behavior will be tolerated).

Link to the Facebook event page: https://www.facebook.com/events/340880087244437/


We are currently looking for instructors passionate about all things beauty related and willing to teach a class or more on the following topics, with time frame from Bronze Age (or earlier) to year 1600:
• Perfumery and fragrant jewelry
• Beauty care (defined as skin/teeth/body care)
• Bathing/baths/pleasure gardens
• Hair care /hair styling/hair pieces and wigs/hair adornments
• Makeup
• Soap making/laundry
• Permanent (tattoos, tooth inlays, piercing) and temporary (henna art) body embellishment.

We welcome pre-recorded classes/presentations combined with live Q&A sessions, live presentations and mix of the above.

Deadline for submitting classes is November 20th 2020 or until the class schedule is filled (whichever happens first).

This is the link for instructors’ sign up:


We are also planning a social room open throughout the event for less formal conversation, a break between classes and meeting new people who share similar interests.

There will be also discussion panels dedicated to the following issues:

• Round table discussion about historical cosmetics and modern racial sensitivity

• Centering persona development around activities related to beauty care and fragrances

• Round table for beginning cosmetic crafters (more guided) and another for more experienced (more about problem solving/sharing discoveries).

To avoid any infringement on copyrights, the classes and other activities will not be recorded during the event and/or uploaded into public domain.

How to perfume gloves according to The Treasurie of Commodious Conceits by John Partridge, 1573.

To perfume the leather glove, I used a combination of two recipes from John Partridge book. The full text can be access here http://www.medievalcookery.com/notes/treasurie.pdf5

To perfume Gloues.

cap. l

TAke Gloues, & wash them in Rosewater, or Damaske water, tyll the scurfs of ye Lether be gon, and then stretch them foorth softly, and keepe the water, you wash them with styll: Then hang them in a cleane lynnen cloth that is foulded .iii. or .iii. doubles: and when they be drye, let them lye in Rose leues dryed, a day or two: then take Oyle of Ciuet Almons, and Musk, and grind them together vp on a Marble stone. Stretch them foorth softly, and with your hande annoynte your Gloues .iii. or .iiii. tymes: & euer among stretch them foorth, then let them drye, and euer stretch them forth softly as thei dry. Then take Sandifer mixed with a lyttle Ambergreace, and strewe the powder of itthinly vpon them and laye them in a Paper: and in a Box, or els melte the Amber greace with a quantiti of Rosewater, and mixe the Sandifer to it, and so annoynt the Gloues with the same. Then let them dry, and lay them in fayre white papers.

3. A preparatiue for Gloues.

WAshe ye Gloues as afore is said, tyll the sent of the leather bee gon, then take Beniamin .ii. ounces, of Storax Calamit .i. ounce, let them be very fine, then take oyle of Ciuet Almons and mingle it with Beniamin & Storax vpon a Marbell stone: When it is wel grownd, put it into an earthen Potte with more Oyle of Ciuet Almond, then put in Cloues in powder, and so let is stand very close couerd: and when you neede, take a little Rosewater in a Sponge, and rub the Gloues softly, & then in lyke manner with the Oyle called Ciuet Oyle for the same purpose.

Let’s start!

Rosewater made from dried rose petals

Quick damask rosewater base made by simmering method

Rosewater made from dried rose petals

•Dried rose petals (best combination are equal amounts of Rosa gallica and Rosa damascena)

•Very often Siam benzoin, cinnamon/cassia and cloves were added (individually or in various combinations)

•Petals soaked in distilled water overnight

•Distillation by reverse pot cover method (no alembic required) or 30 minutes of simmering in double boiler

•Musk grains can be added after rosewater is done or before distillation (‘damask rosewater’)

–I add crushed muskmallow seeds (Abelmoschus moschatus), cloves and cinnamon to my dry rose petals before infusing overnight

–To preserve color, I add citric acid (lemon juice was used in period for the same purpose).

Soaking the gloves in rosewater, squeezing the excess of liquid and drying in shade in layers of linen. This process is repeated 3 times or more. Remember to stretch the gloves as they dry! 
Then store the completely dried  gloves in a box with dried petal roses for at least 2 days (R. damascena or other fragrant variant)

The preparation for gloves (scented super sticky paste)

• 1 oz sweetgum resin as most likely candidate for storax (Liquidambar orientalis)

• 2 oz benzoin resin, also known as gum Benjamin or Sumatra benzoin  (Styrax benzoin)

Grind and mix. Add some civet almond oil and continue to mix

• 1/4 oz cloves (Syzygium aromaticum)

Add powdered cloves and some more civet oil. Store in a pottery (or glass container)

(Fast: 10 mL sweet almond oil  with 21 drops of 3.5% civet tincture (Hermitage Oils))

(More accurate: macerate civet paste in sweet almond oil)

Making the scented paste
Prepare the quick damask rosewater base and a natural sponge. Dip the sponge in rosewater and squeeze the excess of liquid. Put the glove on, smear some paste on and work in the leather with the sponge. Dry and stretch. Repeat as needed.
The glove after application of the scented paste is sticky!
After drying, there are whitish stains from the scented paste.
In order to remove the white stains and make the leather supple, we need to apply the civet almond oil. Put the glove on and start working the civet almond oil in the leather with the sponge. Dry and stretch.
After drying, store scented gloves in a closed container or box. You can put in some dried rose petals. The process of applying the scented paste and civet almond oil can be repeated as needed.

I hope your gloves will be wonderfully scented!

Short history of rouge

The short history of rouge in the Mediterranean region and Far East Asia or ‘If it is red, purple, orange, lavender or pink, use it!’

Rouge may have been the earliest cosmetic invented by humans (red earths)
–Though this is the issue of ‘chicken versus egg’ as most of these cosmetics could have been also used as lip color
•Used in ancient Mesopotamia, in the Aegean, in the Middle East and Far East and Southeast Asia
•The application of rouge continued through the High Medieval period and Renaissance
•No proof that Egyptians used a rouge (the function of the Cypriot scented pink powder is ambiguous)
•Both toxic and non-toxic substances were used as rouge
•Many colorants were used as dyes in textile processing
•Colorants sourced from minerals, plants and animals.

Hematite and red ochre –the oldest mineral ingredients
•Hematite -mineral form ofiron (III) oxide (Fe2O3), one of several iron oxids(red earths)
–Earliest proof of use comes from ancient Sumer (city of Ur), ~3rd millennium BCE


–Ingredient of choice till medieval Persia
•Red ochre – clay earth pigment which is a mixture of ferric oxide and varying amounts of clay and sand
–Used for both cheek and lip color
–The painted faces and ears in Minoan culture were done with red ochre paste (ointment).

Red ochre in animal fat base on Caterina Sforza’s foundation. A cheaper though not so bright alternative to vermilion.

Toxic mineral ingredients
• Vermilion – brilliant red and scarlet pigment originally made from the powdered mineral cinnabar
• Cinnabar – bright red mineral consisting of mercury sulfide, natural ore.
• Realgar – orange red arsenic sulfide mineral, known as masculine yellow, bull’s blood or sandarac.
• Naturally occurring form of lead tetroxide, also known as red lead (minium).
• Vermillion was most desired and the most expensive ingredients for rouge from Bronze Age to Renaissance and later
• Vermilion color was unmatched until mid 20th century when intense red pigment was obtained from petroleum production byproducts.

Vermilion based rouge sample for the Northern Wei cosmetic project (5th century CE) and minium based rouge sample (medieval China).

Colors extracted from plants
•Brazilwood (sappanwood)
•Red sandalwood
•Gromwell (Far East)
•Malabar spinach seeds (Far East)
•Carthamin from safflower (Far East)
•Black mulberry fruits
•Rose petals
•Orchil extract (purple dye extracted from lichens)
•Red poppy flower
•Dregs of wine

The dyes were used in liquid form after extraction (like alkanet) or precipitated as lakes (salts) with alum on base of flour, starch, clay, gypsum (like madder or sappanwood).

Alkanet rouge on Caterina Sforza’s foundation.
Red sandalwood on Caterina Sforza’s foundation.
Orchil on the Londinium foundation.
Red poppy flowers on the Londinium foundation.
The petals of red poppy (Papaver rhoeas) are used fresh or soaked in tiny amount of water before use. It is quite possible that red-colored petals from various flowers were used directly on unprepared skin (without any base) by less well-to-do women. Gathering petals would not have required a trained slave to prepare the cosmetic or money to buy ready products.

Colors extracted from animals (mostly insects)
•Kermes – best was collected in Armenia (late antiquity and early medieval period) and Poland (High Medieval period)
•Lac (India and Far East) –deep red colorant extracted from the crude shellac resin excreted by the lac insect, indigenous to southeast Asia
–gives nice pink color on starch base
•Cochineal from Dactylopiuscoccus
–late arrival, used mostly in 16th century and later
•Purpurissum – Tyrian purple (Ancient Greek: πορφύρα, porphúra; Latin: purpura), also known as Tyrian red) dyeing bath mixed with any kind of white earth (like chalk, gypsum, kaolin) and dried to powder
–Tyrian purple dye comes from secretion produced by several species of predatory sea snails in the family Muricidae, rock snails originally known by the name Murex.

Lac dye on millet flour (China 4-6th century CE).
Lac rouge applied on the modified 胡粉 (húfěn) foundation. This is my favorite rouge and I usually have quite a heavy hand when I apply it to my face (I layer it several times).

A note on presentation for the non-toxic rouge
1 – lead white base in lard base with starch (based on 6th century China recipe from Qimin Yaoshu (齊民要術) and analysis of excavated sample of 胡粉  (húfěn) from 2nd century CE) – reference sample

2 – safe lead white alternative (titanium dioxide, starch, ground pearls) in lard base (modified from 6th century China recipe from Qimin Yaoshu (齊民 術) and analysis of excavated sample of 胡粉 (húfěn) from 2nd century CE)

3 – Londinium ointment (2nd century CE) (tin oxide IV in beef suet base, starch)

4 – safe lead alternative (titanium dioxide) makeup based on Caterina Sforza recipe from late 15th century (in rose water base with starch and micronized mica).

Recreated historical foundations. No.1 is a reference sample and Nos. 2, 3, 4 are made with ingredients generally considered as safe for use in cosmetics.

The ideal skin was fair and smooth, not white/whitish, and this beauty canon seems to prevail across Europe and Asia for millennia, very often regardless of gender.
Egyptians were wiser and seemed to enjoy a golden skin tone, brushed with tiny amount of pink. Though the lead containing cosmetic from 18th Dynasty may change my view on their healthy habits.

Selected references

Bimson, M. (1980). Cosmetic Pigments from the “Royal Cemetery” at Ur. Iraq, 42(1), 75. https://doi.org/10.2307/4200116

Cotte, M., Dumas, P., Richard, G., Breniaux, R. & Walter, Ph. (2005). New insight on ancient cosmetic preparation by synchrotron-based infrared microscopy. Analytica Chimica Acta, 553 (1-2), 105-110. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.aca.2005.07.067.

Diamandopoulos, A. A. (1996). Organic and inorganic cosmetics in the preclassical Eastern Mediterranean. International Journal of Dermatology, 35(10), 751–756. https://doi.org/10.1111/j.1365-4362.1996.tb00659.

Dioscorides Pedanius, of Anazarbos., Tess Anne. Osbaldeston, and Robert P. Wood. 2000. De Materia Medica : Being an Herbal with Many Other Medicinal Materials : Written in Greek in the First Century of the Common Era : A New Indexed Version in Modern English. Johannesburg: IBIDIS

Dusenbury, M. M. (2015). Color in ancient and medieval East Asia.

Early Chinese Cosmetics. (Alec Story). Retrieved June 15, 2020, from https://sundries.alecstory.org/2017/11/early-chinese-cosmetics.html

Farnsworth, M. (1951). Ancient pigments: Particularly second century B.C. pigments from Corinth. Journal of Chemical Education, 28(2), 72. https://doi.org/10.1021/ed028p72

Jia, S., & Shi, S. (1974). A preliminary survey of the book Ch’i Min Yao Shu : an agricultural encyclopaedia of the 6th century = Qimin yaoshu gailun (2nd ed.). Science Press.

Kelly Olson. (2009). Cosmetics in Roman Antiquity: Substance, Remedy, Poison. Classical World, 102(3), 291–310. https://doi.org/10.1353/clw.0.0098

Nosch, M.-L., & Laffineur, R. (2012). KOSMOS : jewellery, adornment and textiles in the Aegean Bronze Age. Peeters.

Partridge, J., & Holloway, J. (2010). The treasurie of commodious conceits,  & Hidden Secrets, and may be called, The huswiues closet, of healthfull prouision. 1573. http://eebo.chadwyck.com/about/about.htm#chron

Pasolini, P. D. (2011). Caterina Sforza. Documenti (Vol. 3). Nabu Press. https://www.amazon.com/Caterina-Sforza-Italian-Desiderio-Pasolini/dp/124824365X

Pérez-Arantegui, J., Cepriá, G., Ribechini, E., Degano, I., Colombini, M. P., Paz-Peralta, J., & Ortiz-Palomar, E. (2009). Colorants and oils in Roman make-ups-an eye witness account. In TrAC – Trends in Analytical Chemistry (Vol. 28, Issue 8, pp. 1019–1028). Elsevier. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.trac.2009.05.006

Pliny, the Elder., and Harris Rackham. 1938. Natural History. Historia Naturalis : In Ten Volumes. 4, Libri XII – XVI (Loeb). The Loeb C. Cambridge Mass. [u.a.]: Harvard University Press. 

Pointer, S. (2005). The artifice of beauty : a history and practical guide to perfumes and cosmetics. Sutton.

Rapp, G. R. (2009). Archaeomineralogy (2nd ed.). Springer.

Ribechini, E., Modugno, F., Pérez-Arantegui, J., & Colombini, M. P. (2011). Discovering the composition of ancient cosmetics and remedies: Analytical techniques and materials. In Analytical and Bioanalytical Chemistry (Vol. 401, Issue 6, pp. 1727–1738). Springer. https://doi.org/10.1007/s00216-011-5112-2

Schafer, E. (1956). The Early History of Lead Pigments and Cosmetics in China. T’oung Pao, 44(1).

Stewart, S. (Susan M. (2007). Cosmetics & perfumes in the Roman world. Tempus.

Van Elslande, E., Guérineau, V., Thirioux, V., Richard, G., Richardin, P., Laprévote, O., Hussler, G., & Walter, P. (2008). Analysis of ancient Greco–Roman cosmetic materials using laser desorption ionization and electrospray ionization mass spectrometry. Analytical and Bioanalytical Chemistry, 390(7), 1873–1879. https://doi.org/10.1007/s00216-008-1924-0

Wouters, J., Grzywacz, C. M., & Claro, A. (2010). Markers for Identification of Faded Safflower (Carthamus tinctorius L.) Colorants by HPLC-PDA-MS: ANCIENT FIBRES, PIGMENTS, PAINTS AND COSMETICS DERIVED FROM ANTIQUE RECIPES. Studies in Conservation, 55(3).

If you like to make your own accurate rouge like the ones presented here, please contact me for detailed recipes.
Please check before attempting any experimentation for potential allergens. Nobody should be harmed by the hobby!

Starting your own journey into historical perfumery – equipment, tools, aromatics suppliers.

I have started putting together a list of the basics needed to start your own fragrance research laboratory at home. Here are my suggestions for tools and suppliers I have tested before.

Equipment and tools

Most items can be purchased on eBay, Amazon, science surplus store on university campuses.

Keep the tools/utensils separate from the regular cooking ones!

•Single use muffin forms for weighing
•Distillation apparatus
(for custom orders of glass sets visit https://historicalglassworks.com/)
•Source of heat (apartment living limits me to use of the electric stove top and tea lights use for open fire source)
•Flat and round bottom Florentine flasks
•Bowls of different sizes (I like glass)
•Tools for mixing like spoons, glass rods
•Funnels (I recommend stainless steel or glass ones, it is possible to also order custom made pottery funnels and sieves)
•Dark glass bottles for storage (I like the round boston glass bottles, the caps can be easily replaced as they tend to degrade)
•Larger containers for storing prepared waters (I recycle glass jars)
•Bain-marie or double boiler
•Cylinders, measuring cups and spoons
•Laboratory pipettes (0.2 ml and 1 ml)
•Filtering material (tightly woven cloth or paper coffee filters)
•Mortar and pestle (glass, porcelain, bronze, wood) or spice grinder (as replacement for servants!)
•Notebook for keeping notes (electronic or traditional)

Suppliers of aromatics

Store all ingredients in tightly closed containers.
Some raw resins should be kept in freezer to prevent mold growth (raw pine resin) and help with aliquoting (like labdanum resin).

This list is probably very subjective. I will be adding new places as I test them and can report my level of satisfaction. If anyone can recommend more good sources for aromatics, please comment on this post. Thank you!















(good source of opercula)

•Your local herbal stores 

•And own garden (if you have access to one)

Suggested substitutes for animal-derived ingredients:


• Ambergris essence (IFF)

• Oil of ambergris (Ambrein, epicoprosterol, co-prosterol)

• Essential oils of labdanum, scarlet beebalm (Monarda didyma), balsam fir and seaweed  (Fucus vesiculosus) mixed with bee glue (propolis) and powdered sepia bone, aged for a few months

Deer musk

• Muskrat gland tincture or macerate (in gurjum balsam or sandalwood essential oil)

• Ambrette seeds and ambrette seeds absolute (recommended when heating is not involved in processing of fragrance)

• Tonquitone essence (IFF)


• Civet replacement (Hermitage Oils)

•Custom made glass distillation sets


• Instructions for the reverse pot cover distillation method


• Copper alembics