Amber is an odd word

Amber is an odd word, isn’t it?  I mean you type in the word “amber” in Google and the very first description that comes up  is what most people think of… those gemstones that sometimes contain insects.  That amber is actually fossilized tree resin and it makes for some very popular and interesting jewelry.  But when perfumistas talk about amber, they are talking about something completely different.

The perfume industry has the same problem as most disciplines in that the vocabulary is an obstacle for people who don’t understand the jargon.  When talking to fellow librarians, I’ll often  refer to books as monographs and magazines as periodicals.  The collection of materials in a library is a catalogue and one searches the catalogue via an OPAC.  Have I lost you yet?

It’s the same with perfume.  Among ourselves we prefer to use the jargon… ambers and fougères, topnotes and drydown, sillage and soliflores because, understandably, it’s alot easier to say “the amber family” than “that styrax-benzoin-cistus-labdanum-vanilla-musk family”.  It’s a kind of shorthand.  But when talking to people who aren’t familiar with the vocabulary, it’s probably isolating for them.

In addition to being a shorthand, using jargon identifies the person as part of an in-crowd having the same interests.  So when I say, “There’s nothing better than a crisp, green chypre”, it’s a kind of password to the listener that I understand the lingo and we can continue in this shorthand if you also know the vocabulary.

As to my first point , what does the word “amber” mean for perfumistas?  Well, the word “amber” comes from the French word “ambré” which comes from a mythic amber perfume, L’Ambre Antique (1905), created by one of the top 5 great perfumers of all time, François Coty.  Ambre Antique defined the genre and other perfumers soon found that they could use the amber accord as a base and add other notes to it… which is what they did.  Today, amber represents a whole family of perfumes.

Amber perfumes are known to have ingredients like vanilla, musk and oriental resins in them with classic ambers being Guerlain’s Shalimar, Chanel’s Coco and Yves Saint-Laurent’s Opium.  But if you’re looking for an inexpensive, basic amber that both women and men can wear, check out my Stetson Original review.

One final note on ambers, they are sometimes referred to as “orientals”.  We wouldn’t want to make it too easy, now would we?

Top Image : The Tower of Babel by Abel Grimmer (1570-1619)

Bottom Image : Vintage bottle of L’Ambre Antique

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