Throughout the centuries, violet has been one of the most commonly used flowers, in real life and in art. Its habitat is northern hemisphere and it was a symbol of rebirth, the triumph of love as well as the symbol of modesty, virtue, and fidelity. According to the legend, a Christian priest Saint Valentine wrote his love letters using ink made out of violets he grew himself. An ancient Roman legend speaks of the goddess Venus that became jealous of the maids that were prettier than her. She took revenge on maids, shrinking them and eventually turning them into blue violets.
Violet worshiping has been around for centuries. Ancient Greeks and Romans mixed it with wine and made it a symbol of Athens so that no celebration could happen without decorations made out of it. Violet was Napoleon Bonaparte’s favorite flower. When he was exiled to Elba island, he promised to return in springtime, when the first violets bloom. Whenever soldiers found a foreigner they would ask him if he loves violets. If he said yes, they knew they found an ally. The shape of the flower that resembles a heart was an inspiration for many to see violet as a symbol of virtue. According to the legend, when an angel appeared to Virgin Mary telling her she’s carrying the son of god violets began blooming around her, as symbols of virtue and serenity. Old Persians used violet to dream good dreams, calm the anger and heal the heart. According to the Persian tradition, a potion made out of violet flowers sunk in a warm water healed a broken heart.
In perfume industry, violets – flowers and leaves were very popular in the 19th century. After synthetic replacement was discovered in 1883 (Tiemann and Kruger), natural oil was used less and less in perfume production due to the complicated method of extraction and the costs of the material, especially compared to the synthetic version. The most famous and expensive is Parma violet (Viola Odorata) whose essence was part of many perfumes made for blue-blooded ladies of 19th century Europe.
After synthetic replacement ionone – with wide scent palette from floral sweet and powdery to sharp, green and woody notes – was discovered, violet’s essential oils were seldom used in perfume making. Violet leaves are still being used as they are cheap and have a singular scent of cut grass and fresh cucumber, but also they smell of freshly picked violets. When skillfully used, it brings elegance to the perfume, elegance that cannot be achieved with any other note. It goes well with tuberose, narcissus, tea, sage, cumin, basil, lily of the valley, hyacinth.
Violet made its mark on many chypre perfume classics of the first half of the 20th century such as Parfums Gres Cabochard and Madame Rochas Femme. Methyl ionone was used as an ideal axis between woody tones in perfume base and floral in the middle, giving fullness and opulence to the entire composition. High concentrations of ionone were used in a well known classic Nina Ricci L’Air du Temps and revolutionary Tresor designed by Sophia Grojsman. Even today, every powdery, floral perfume wouldn’t exist if it weren’t for the methyl ionone and violet of Parma.
Perfumes with violet note are: Guerlain L’Heure Bleue, Meteorites and Insolence Eau de parfum, Serge Lutens Bois de Violette i Iris Silver Mist, Chanel no 19, Coty L’Origan, Oscar de la Renta, Yves Saint Laurent Paris, Frederic Malle Lipstick Rose, Balmain Jolie Madame, Dior Fahrenheit, Cartier Eau de Cartier, L’Artisan Verte Violette, Annick Goutal La Violette, Histoires de Parfums Blanc Violette, Lez Nez The Unicorn Spell, Creed Love in Black, Mancera Aoud Violet, Kenzo Flower and many other.
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