Your cart is empty.

Evocative perfumes for the modern and provocateur. Handmade and certified vegan.

10 May '17

What It Means To Be A Natural Perfume

Posted by James Elliott in the more you know

It’s time to clear the air about natural perfume and what it means for a fragrance to contain natural materials. First let’s explore some common misconceptions about natural fragrances.

Natural materials are extracted naturally

Our natural perfumes are made using essential oils, CO2 extracts, and absolutes, yet each of these extractions methods require different means to achieve their ends. Essential oils such as bergamot, patchouli, and lavender are manufactured using either cold-press extraction or steam distillation. CO2 extracts such as cardamom, champaca, and saffron are produced using supercritical CO2 as an inert solvent that returns to its gaseous state after extraction. Absolutes such as tuberose, jasmine, and tobacco are manufactured first using a solvent such as hexane to extract the aroma, and then adding ethyl alcohol to remove waxes and/or other deposits. Companies can further isolate aromatic compounds from natural materials to produce what are known as isolates. (For the record, we do not use any isolates or fractionals in our perfumes.)

Natural materials do not contain chemicals

It is the chemical constituents in natural materials that create their unique aromatic properties. (Synthetic fragrance materials are generally made using petrochemicals.) And it is the chemical constituents in natural materials that can be combined to create a singular fragrance compound. For example, the chemical isophorone in peppermint can be used with other natural materials to create a plum fragrance, and the chemical acetaldehyde in white cognac can be combined with other natural materials to create the scent of lychee. The chemicals in natural materials allow for endless fragrance combinations.

Natural materials are safe

Bergamot oil is distilled from the peel of the bergamot orange, its distinct aroma is what gives Earl Grey tea such a dramatic flavor. Bergamot oil, like most citrus oils, is phototoxic due to the chemical constituents responsible for extreme sensitization of the skin to sunlight. If one wanted to wear bergamot oil directly on the skin – after dilution – it must be a bergapten-free oil. We use a bergamot oil that does not contain furanocoumarin, thereby ensuring our perfume is not phototoxic for the wearer.

We always encourage you to sample our fragrances before committing to a full bottle. We recommend using the samples to patch test your skin to determine if you may have any sensitivities or allergic reactions toward our perfumes.

Then why do perfumers use synthetic materials?


Lily of the Valley (Muguet) is perhaps one of the most revered floral scents, but it is not available as a natural material. Flowers such as lily of the valley, lilac, and hyacinth do not have enough oil to make an essential oil or absolute, so synthetics are used in their place. Some aroma compounds such as aldehyde have no natural counterpart, yet the synthetic is able to add a new or unexpected effect to the perfume.


When is a drop not a drop? The answer has everything to do with mass: the viscosity of a natural material affects its mass which in turn affects a perfume. Guaiacwood is a wonderfully deep, smoky wood note in fragrance, and at room temperature it is in a waxy solid state. Once heated guaiacwood has a very light viscosity and can be added to a perfume formula. Guaiacwood does not immediately return to a solid state, however as it cools the material acquires a thicker viscosity. Its synthetic counterpart guaiacol can replicate the aroma properties without needing to account for heating or viscosity. A synthetic allows a perfumer a consistent mass, thereby ensuring an accurate parfum concentrate every time.


Natural fragrances such as orris root and oud (agarwood) are quite costly to use in commercial perfumes, whereas their synthetic counterparts can provide the same aroma at a fraction of the cost. Methyl Ionone (synthetic orris) is a mere $32/kg compared to $66K/kg for orris root. Synthetic oud is $1197/kg compared to a quality oud oil that sells for $240K/kg.


In a previous post we discussed what it means to be a vegan perfume, listing all known animalic fragrances and their source of origin. Synthetic musk and civetone were created to replace natural musk and civet, respectively, because the manufacturing of the material is now considered unethical. Ambergris is illegal to possess or trade in the United States and Australia, so perfumers will use Ambroxide (more commonly known by its brand name Ambroxan) in its place. Ambergris is also incredibly expensive to buy so Ambroxide is also a practical material for commercial perfumery.


This subject is particularly touchy, depending on one’s personal opinion toward IFRA (International Fragrance Association). IFRA provides guidelines for the safe usage of fragrance materials – both synthetic and natural – in perfume and skincare. IFRA regards oakmoss absolute as a restricted material and states in its guidelines that it cannot comprise more than 0.1 percent of a fragrance. Synthetic oakmoss is produced in accordance with IFRA guidelines, however many perfumers find it a poor substitute for true oakmoss. Saffron is incredibly aromatic but IFRA restricts the material to 0.005% in a fragrance due to the compound safranal. Because of the restrictions perfumers will use a synthetic to recreate the scent of saffron without involving the component that can pose a danger to the wearer.

So why wear natural perfumes?

Let’s get physical

All too often a person will be walking ahead of us and their fragrance is so strong that it makes our eyes tear. It is not uncommon for a synthetic fragrance, especially when applied liberally, to trigger a runny nose, watery eyes, or even a headache in the general population. Around the globe an estimated 10–30% of the general population reported scented products on others to be physically irritating.

The good news is that natural scents may be less likely to bother people with fragrance sensitivity. There may be several factors that account for this, such as lower concentrations of a perfume compound or less tenacity than synthetic perfumes. For people who have allergies to specific natural materials, we are happy to indicate which perfumes are appropriate to sample.

The chemicals between us

Commercial perfumes are expected to have a long shelf life whilst maintaining their scent profile. Synthetic chemicals such as diethyl phthalate (DEP) and dipropylene glycol (DPG) may be used to hold a fragrance together, thus preserving the scent profile (and physical appearance) of the fragrance. DEP is known to affect the liver and reproductive system in large amounts, but on average it composes no more than 0.5% of a commercial perfume. DPG is found to be of low toxicity but it is an active irritant of the skin and eye area. Commercial perfumes contain more than just fragrance and alcohol, and that grey area of what comprises “more” can pose a health risk.

Our eau de parfum contains 85% organic alcohol (95% alcohol, 5% water) and 15% parfum. Our huile de parfum contains 80% organic jojoba oil and 20% parfum. We do not use any phthalates, parabens, aroma chemicals, or synthetic materials in our perfumes. Our perfumes containing citrus notes will have a shelf life of 2–3 years as the materials will naturally evaporate from the perfume. Wood and resin materials will improve with age over time, similar to a fine Scotch or Brandy.

The song remains the same

Commercial perfumes do not behave the same as their natural counterparts that change scent on the wearer over time. A synthetic scent applied in the morning will still smell the same in the afternoon, and the evening, and even the next morning until a shower breaks the cycle. Apply that same synthetic scent to any number of individuals and the result will be the same scent profile. You and everyone you know can smell exactly like your favorite celebrity’s newest perfume, because that is what it is designed to do.

Our natural perfumes are designed to last 6–12 hours, using no more than 1–2 sprays. A good rule of thumb when applying perfume is that it should enhance, not announce, the wearer. Our huile de parfum does not emit the same sillage (wake) as eau de parfum, rather it is a more intimate presence on the skin.

In many ways natural perfume is different than synthetic fragrance, and in other ways it is better. Perfumers will use a combination of natural and synthetic materials in their fragrances, but for us there is nothing quite like the real thing. And with the vast number of natural materials available, the permutations for natural perfume are myriad.

We hope you found this information to be helpful. If there is something we overlooked or missed, please let us know.

10 Apr '17


Posted by James Elliott in good deeds, store news


In the summer
I stretch out on the shore
And think of you
Had I told the sea
What I felt for you
It would have left its shores,
Its shells,
Its fish,
And followed me.

Nizar Qabbani
Syrian poet

I grew up living in several different states, yet the formative part of my youth was spent in Denver. I don’t remember how my family originally came upon this restaurant, but it remains my favorite to this day. A Syrian restaurant called Damascus, tucked away in a sleepy plaza of stores either closed or forgotten by time. You could miss Damascus if you blinked as you drove south on Colorado Boulevard toward University.

Dolly Madison, Denver, Colorado. 2016

The remnants of the Dolly Madison store adjacent to the doors of Damascus will let you know you found this hidden gem. The interior artwork consisted of promotional travel posters and a mural of men riding horses. When I last visited Denver, the posters were no longer on the walls, but the mural still holds its brilliance. To this day, I hold its baba ghanouj above all others.

Watching the events unfold in Syria moved me through stages of anger, grief, sorrow, and compassion. I felt compelled to do something – anything – to help the people of Syria who continue to suffer a never-ending nightmare. And so I created a fragrance with the express intent to do what I am not able.

REZIN OF JOY is inspired by Muslimgauze, but more importantly by a desire to help the unarmed volunteers risking their lives to help anyone in need in Syria. 100 percent of all proceeds will be donated to the White Helmets, the Syrian Civil Defense. Bakers, tailors, engineers, pharmacists, students and many more, the White Helmets come from all walks of life. The 3,200 volunteers are united by their motto that “to save one life, is to save all of humanity.”

This huile de parfum contains organic jojoba oil and a blend of jasmine, (ten) roses, blue lotus, oud, amber, vegetal musk, carnation, pistachio, and more. The fragrance is all natural and vegan – I didn’t have time to certify its vegan status, but I promise you it is a vegan perfume – ready to ship anywhere around the world. I created only 30 bottles of this limited edition fragrance so, claim yours now.

I truly believe that we can make the world a better place, if only we try.

05 Feb '17

What it means to be a vegan perfume

Posted by James Elliott in vegan

What it means to be a vegan perfume

At Filigree we pride ourselves on creating uncommon fragrances that are all-natural and certified vegan. We are often asked what it means for our perfumes to be vegan. A person that identifies as vegan does not consume meat, seafood, eggs, dairy, or honey; does not wear or purchase clothing derived from leather, fur, wool fibers, or silk; and does not use or purchase products that contain animal products or have been tested on animals. For a perfume to be considered vegan, we follow those same principles for our fragrances.

Does not contain animal products

Not everyone is aware that a perfume may contain animal ingredients to provide an animalic note in a fragrance. There are five materials derived from animals; three of the five require direct extraction.


Castoreum is exuded from the castor sac (scent gland) of North American beavers. Despite what you may have seen posted on social media, castoreum is not used as a common flavoring in processed or packaged foods. However, castoreum was traditionally used in the production of leather tanning, and its presence in fragrances can impart nostalgia of a leather note.


Musk was traditionally exuded from the scent gland of the deer musk. Thankfully most (if not all) musk in Western fragrances is synthetic since the discovery of synthetic musks in the late 19th century. Today natural musk is derived from the gazelle, but plant materials such as ambrette seed and galbanum resin also contain musk-smelling compounds.


The civet produces musk from its perineal glands. The musk note is more commonly known as civet, and it is harvested either by killing the animal and removing its glands, or by scraping the secretions from the glands of a live animal. Synthetic civetone is a close reconstruction of true civet and is used in commercial perfumes due to public outcry of animal cruelty.


Ambergris is the byproduct of a sperm whale. In lay terms, ambergris is whale vomitus that has been hardened and repeatedly washed by ocean water. The only way to harvest ambergris is to search/comb beaches, but take note: in the United States and Australia, possession of or trade in ambergris is strictly banned. However in most countries, including the UK and the rest of the EU, it is perfectly legal to salvage ambergris from beaches and sell it. Commercial fragrances use the synthetic ambroxan in their perfumes due to the often exorbitant price of true ambergris.

African Stone / Hyraceum

The hyrax is a herbivore that lives mostly in Africa and the Middle East. Incredible but true, its closest relatives are the elephant and sea cow. Hyraxes create large piles of dung and urine that, over time, petrify and age to form hyraceum. The material is tinctured in alcohol, imparting a scent described as a combination of musk, civet, castoreum, and tobacco. Harvesting hyraceum does not require any direct harm (or contact) of the hyrax, making it an ethical, natural animalic note in perfume.


To be vegan is to abstain from all animal products, including silk and wool due to the unethical means of acquiring the materials. Vegans also abstain from honey and beeswax since the bees are often disturbed – sometimes destroyed – during the manufacturing process. In perfume, beeswax is sold as an absolute and is derived through solvent extraction. One cannot be certain that no bees were harmed during the extraction process without third-party certification of ethical, humane manufacturing. Unlike the other materials listed, beeswax in perfume does not impart any animalic note to a fragrance, possessing only its intended honeyed aroma.

What about amber?

It is a common misperception for people to associate amber with ambergris, but they are wholly distinct and separate fragrance ingredients. Amber as a note in perfume is meant to be an aromatic resinous substance. We create our own amber using a time-honored recipe of labdanum and vanilla. Fossilized amber oil is obtained by processing fossilized resin over high heat until it yields an oily substance. The oil has a smell similar to creosote that is best appreciated at a 1% dilution of its original concentration.

Not tested on animals

By and large many personal care products sold in North America, Europe, and Australia are not tested on animals. In China, however, companies must meet government regulation which requires animal testing in order to sell all imported cosmetics, new cosmetic ingredients, and “special use” cosmetics (e.g., hair dyes, deodorants). The China Food & Drug Administration (CFDA) classifies perfume as an “ordinary cosmetic,” and companies who wish to sell their perfume in China must adhere to the regulations put forth by the administration. The application for a perfume requires a testing report from a cosmetics testing institution approved by the CFDA. Some of the following testing requirements may be required for the report:

  • Physiochemical and microbiological testing
  • Acute oral toxicity and acute dermal toxicity
  • Acute dermal irritation and acute eye irritation
  • Dermal sensitization
  • Dermal photo-toxicity test & dermal photosensitivity
  • Sub-chronic oral toxicity and dermal toxicity
  • Teratogenicity test
  • Authenticity test
  • Chronic toxicity and carcinogenic test
  • Safety evaluation of using tests of cosmetics on human body

The aforementioned tests all involve animal testing. Until the CFDA no longer mandates any of these testing requirements for cosmetics, any company that sells in mainland China cannot promote (or promise) cruelty-free products. But take heart, dear reader, for all is not lost: Hong Kong is an autonomous territory in China and does not require animal testing on cosmetics.

Here at Filigree animals are incredibly important to us. We have never used animal products nor tested on animals, and we remain committed to these tenets. To that end, we will never sell our perfumes where regulations require any animal testing.

All our perfumes are Certified Vegan by Vegan Action, demonstrating our commitment to animals and our passion for a cruelty-free lifestyle. We are also proud to be a member of the Vegan Trade Council. Our perfumes intersect luxury and veganism, resulting in premium fragrances that respect all creatures great and small. Shop with confidence that the perfumes you wear from our collection are 100% natural, use certified organic alcohol and organic jojoba oil, are cruelty-free, and contain no animal products whatsoever.

20 Jan '17


Posted by James Elliott in reviews


Thank you ÇaFleureBon and Robert Herrmann for such wonderful prose in praise of our natural fragrances LAKMÉ and FOLLOW. LAKMÉ was created exclusively for House of Vartan, a natural fragrance that has Robert reëxamine his hatred for oud.

“This is truly a gorgeous and creamy oud, masterfully blended to add support to the rose and jasmine without overwhelming them.”

He describes FOLLOW as “summer in a bottle…gorgeous.” Read the review in its entirety at ÇaFleureBon and be sure to enter the draw for your own bottle of FOLLOW. Good luck to everyone who enters!

15 Jan '17


Posted by James Elliott in good deeds


These are our cats Jóna (top) and Baldur. We adopted them from Seattle Animal Shelter when they were no more than 4 months old and rescued from the side of a road south of Seattle. Their first night home was spent hiding under our bed and none of us got any sleep that night. Fast-forward almost four years later and there is hardly a surface in the house that isn’t their bed—laps included. Because of you and your support of my business, I was able to donate 1% of my gross sales to Seattle Animal Shelter. Now other animals will find their way home and families will be made whole. Thank you—from our family to yours.