As Old as Soap

By Jo Phillips

We may not realise it but the history of soap is a long one, dating back thousands of years as far back as Ancient Babylon. Evidence has been found that ancient Babylonians understood soap making as early as 2800 BC. Archaeologists have found soap-like material in historic clay cylinders from this time, yet we are still using soap thousands of years later so what is new in soap news? Read more in As Old as Soap Image on left Harry Stonehill  @harrystonhill

Records show ancient Egyptians bathed regularly, setting the trend if you like, for washing. There is a medical document from about 1500 BCE describing the combination of animal and vegetable oils with salts to form a soap-like material used for treating skin diseases, as well as for washing. OK, it doesn’t sound quite as appealing as maybe the nice scented soap we use today, but that is where our roots of washing with ‘soap’ come from.

Many other ancient civilizations also used early forms of soap, and its name is supposed to have come from an ancient Roman legend about Mount Sapo. Rain would wash down the mountain, mixing with animal fat and ashes, resulting in a clay mixture found to make cleaning easier. 

By the 7th century, soap-making was an established art in Italy, Spain and France. These countries were early centres of soap manufacturing due to their ready supply of source ingredients, such as oil from olive trees.  For example, Marseille soap had been made in the south of France for more than six centuries. The recipe was first officially recognized in 1688 during the reign of Louis XIV, the “Sun King.” Eventually, fragrances were introduced and specialized soaps for bathing, shaving, shampooing, and laundry began to appear.

It was by the Middle Ages, that vegetable-oil-based soaps arrived hailed for their mildness and purity and smell came into use as luxury items among Europe’s most privileged classes.

The first of these, Aleppo soap, a green, olive-oil-based bar soap infused with aromatic laurel oil, which was produced in Syria and brought to Europe by Christian crusaders and traders.

Interestingly the ancient East is also where fragrance is reported to have come from. So in many ways, it is surprising that the two ideas, that of soap and perfume, didn’t come together earlier than they did.

Thankfully scented soaps are what we really use in our modern-day, so what is a new set of soaps had their inspiration in the ancient East, yet their fragrance imbued within was also inspired by sunshine-filled vistas of Europe?

Meet the perfumed luxury softening and soothing soaps, infused with shea butter, from Chelsea based Ancienne Ambiance, a brand whose very heritage is steeped in history.

This family-run concern has unprecedented access to stunning antiquities and museum-worthy fine jewellery as well as delicious award-winning perfumes, candles, jewellery and homewares.

First launched in 2013, their delicate cleansing as well as and moisturising soap collection that is made in France follow the traditional Savon de Marseille techniques.

Each luxury soap bar is full of nourishing and moisturising vitamins creates a creamy lather that gently purifies without stripping the skin and leaves it delicately scented and the packaging is in 100% recyclable wrapping.

They have just introduced new fragrances to the range. These new scents include:-

Neroli Orange Blossom,   The use of Neroli and orange blossom dates back to ancient Egypt where they were used in several beauty recipes.

Bacca Berry, A sophisticated and vibrant fruity blend of redcurrants, blackcurrants and an array of freshly picked bursting berries. A seasonal staple for early hunter-gatherers for thousands of years, Bacca (Latin used for ‘small round fruit’) were also enjoyed by the Romans, Etruscans and Greeks.

Ambra Amber, inspired by the Ambergris resin favoured by Roman Emperors.

Adriatica Fig, blends woody notes of the fig tree with the fruity sweetness of Mediterranean white Adriatic figs. Highly prized in antiquity, both figs and fig wood were symbols of rebirth, abundance, enlightenment and prosperity.

Whilst in the original collection find, Meli Honey, Damask Rose, Amandula Almond, Lavendula Lavender, Jasinum Jasmin and Goddess Argan.

Five generations of family heritage in ancient art and ancient jewellery, make up Ancienne Ambiance and they are truly in keeping with their brand heritage but building on their collection of scented soaps seeing as both the scents and the cleansing bars come from the very places the store is built around.

Ancienne Ambiance was founded online in 2004 and expanded in 2014 with a flagship London boutique in the heart of Chelsea.

To find out more about these soaps the candles perfumes jewellery and home items go to ancienneambiance.com Here

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