There was a time — not long ago, either — when “clean” didn’t smell like laundry soap. In those days, a clean fragrance was crisp and green with a hint of citrus, but might also waft a pretty floral heart and deliver a punch of oakmoss. Clean wasn’t a stack of folded sweat pants hot from the dryer, it was a white kid glove slid onto a cool, powdered hand. Chanel Cristalle and Estée Lauder Aliage embody this style of clean. Molyneux Quartz must have been one of the last mainstream fragrances of this genre.
Quartz was released in 1978. The Parfums Molyneux website mentions only honeysuckle and patchouli among its notes, but Jan Moran’s Fabulous Fragrances lists peach, hyacinth, cassie, jasmine, rose, carnation, orris, melon, sandalwood, musk amber, moss, benzoin, and cedarwood and classifies Quartz as a “floral-fruity.”
To me, Quartz Eau de Parfum is a delicate green chypre with hints of peach and melon and a whiff of cut herbs. Its floral heart is subtle and indistinct. As it settles, a slight, soapy powder and wet stone aroma take over. Dry, dry wood and moss give the fragrance a pianissimo finish. Quartz smells like Frédéric Malle Le Parfum de Thérèse lay down in a cold, shady creek with water rushing over the rounded stones beneath her. She toweled off her frigid skin and smoothed on a palm of silky powder.
Unfortunately, Quartz doesn’t have the body of Le Parfum de Thérèse. It is much more sheer and quickly retreats on skin. On my skin, it disappears almost entirely within three hours. (Incidentally, it doesn’t have near the melon, either.) The flip side is that Quartz is understated enough that you could spritz with abandon and not worry about nasty glances in the elevator.
All this said, Quartz has undoubtedly been through generations of reformulations and may have been a richer, fruitier fragrance back in the day (please comment if you remember a pre-Clinton administration Quartz). My bottle is a few years old and may have been sitting on the shelf a number of years before I bought it. It’s old enough that the oakmoss sings true, but new enough that its packaging is chintzy.
I’m not sure someone brand new to fragrance would appreciate Quartz’s retro play on clean — a clean that looks more like Grace Kelly than Jennifer Aniston. Quartz might feel too powdery and vague to someone schooled in clean musks and calone. But if you’re a fan of Cristalle and appreciate a perfume that smells like a composition rather than a few easy-to-peg notes, you might want to audition Quartz for your summer perfume wardrobe.
Molyneux Quartz Eau de Parfum is still in production, and comes in 30 ml, 50 ml, and 100 ml sizes. It can be bought online for less than $20 for a 100 ml bottle.
Must…. not… buy…. immediately….
I have decided I NEED a sample of this. I HOPE the peach and melon come out stronger on my skin – I’ve been looking for something fruity AND well-composed.
It’s not available at TPC!
I suppose I should just get a bottle then….
It’s fairly inexpensive, but still, if you can find a sample or a tester somewhere…
This may be too impulsive of me…
But what do you think of Quartz for men? Have you smelled it or know anyone who has?
They seem to be selling cheap at a store near me… TRYING VERY HARD not to buy impulsively.
No, I haven’t tried Quartz for men and don’t know anything about it.
Do you have any stores specializing in perfume around you? Sometimes those little, older perfume stores have all kinds of interesting backstock to test.
Quartz for men is like Amouage Lyric on my skin! On my bf skin it is slightly spicier and cooler. It’s YUM!
The one for women is like Quelques Fleurs on my skin; old-smelling and nothing I love.
But I’m unbelievably pleased with the male one!! Yay, thanks Angela!
Hi, this is my first post ever. I have this perfume, I love it, and I think it would smell great on a guy. Chandler Burr tells a funny story about a guy borrowing this perfume and the results if you scroll down here: http://chandlerburr.com/newsite/content/emperorofscent/perfumeprevious.php
The peach and melon are there, but fairly subdued, in my bottle of Quartz. You’re smart not to buy unsniffed! Maybe you can swap for a sample on Makeupalley or something like that.
No, no, not too smart…. Just bought the male and femme version unsniffed…. I’m hoping it’ll be as good a blind-buy as Versace L’Homme
Either way I know it won’t be cloying so I’d still wear it
I’m interested to know what the masculine version is like–I haven’t heard a thing about it–and I do hope you like the feminine version!
I’ll let you know tomorrow!
“But if you’re a fan of Cristalle and appreciate a perfume that smells like a composition rather than a few easy-to-peg notes … ” Yes and yes, and I’m a little alarmed by how much of a dent I’ve already made in my new-ish bottle of Cristalle EDT. So 100 ml of an acceptable stand-in for under $20 sounds tempting indeed.
Your enabler’s pin must be more like an enabler’s tiara anymore, Angela!
Also, glad to hear that the peach and melon are more subdued than in PdT. Peach I generally don’t mind, but melon I do.
Yes, they’re definitely more subdued–to my nose, at least.
I’m not sure what the latest version of Quartz smells like, so I hope you’re able to get a sniff somewhere before laying out the cash! All the same, it’s nice to find a decent fragrance for less than $100 these days.
Surrender to Chance has Molyneux Quartz. 1 ml for $2.99.
Nice tip! Thanks.
Emily…you still have almost 2 months leading up to your birthday, don’t you? As far as I am concerned, the first gift was the START of your birthday SEASON…so let the shopping continue (by hubby), with your very helpful suggestions
And they call ME the enabler! I like the way you think.
Hahaha! I LOVE the idea of a birthday season, Hajusuuri. And if it’s under $20, it doesn’t really count anyway, right? I mean, if $100 is the new free, then $20 is like being paid to acquire perfume.
I can’t argue with that!
Adding my voice to the melon skeptics, but I do love peach and I am interested in Quartz. It’s lovely to be able to spray lavishly.
On old fashioned clean, Eau de Givenchy is another example, perhaps one of the last of its type. The current iteration may be a tad drier than the original, but it is still pretty good.
Eau de Givenchy is a good one! Thanks for reminding me of it. I saw a gigantic bottle once in an antiques store–the bottle must have been nearly a liter–but it had turned. Too bad. I would have loved chugging it on with abandon after my bath.
Ah well, there is always that jug of Jean Nate in your fridge! (See, I remember yoru past reviews … )
You’re right! It’s in the door, next to the ketchup…
I bought Quartz in 1980 and it came in a box different than the one in your picture. It was still navy blue, but did not have the grid pattern you often see in ebay offerings. Instead it had a large letter Q that spanned the whole front of the box. There was no “Femme” designation. I watched eBay vigilantly until I saw a listing for a box like this (1 fl. oz) and pounced. I’m not disappointed. I can smell the galbanum at the start…I still love it. I would not say that it is a fruity-floral in the current mode at all – no pink ickyness and no melon that I can find…
I have to laugh at “pink ickyness” since I totally know what that smells like!
Angela My godmother used to wear Quartz when it first came out… It is all the things you describe AND it had a “fizzy” effervescent quality… Citrusy,green and VERY chic. I am SO glad you did this review thank you!
You’re welcome! Smelling it must bring back nice memories for you.
yes, very chic. It made me feel like an adult – leaving Love’s Rain scent in the dust…
It’s quite a sophisticated leap from Love’s Rain to Quartz!
I have it in the box that nancyg describes and agree with her assessment, lthough I do get the lightest possible hint of melon. Not strong or long-lasting, but very nice. Thanks for reviewing this classic, Angela!
Nice! It sounds like that’s the box to get. You’re welcome for the review, of course. Sometimes it’s nice to dip into the old releases.
*makes choking sounds of despair* Oh, this sounds like it would be right up both my alley and my mom’s alley. I must keep an eye out for this, reformulated to death or not, as it sounds lovely.
Do keep a look out for it! If you like it, it’s reasonably priced and a good one for summer.
In my similar despair I blind-bought the bottle!
I know just how that despair feels! Hopefully it will be a bottle you’ll enjoy.
I’m a bit late to the conversation, but what a coincidence! I was wearing this yesterday… Quartz was actually recommended to me by, get this, a sales assistant at the Dior boutique in Brussels no less! I went in there about 2 months ago, wanting to sniff Mitzah and New Look, and we started talking perfume. I always feel very self-conscious whenever I step over the threshold of any of these upscale stores, but she could not have been nicer. She even went out of her way to make me a sample box, including four really cute and really generous glass micro-bottles, in a crêpe paper lined box with a ribbon around it… Sorry, I had to mention this story, because it was such a nice person, and I knew you of all people would appreciate it! As for Quartz, I am definitely not disappointed. I am not good at sniffing out individual notes, so I cannot really comment on the melon, but it for sure is a really nice, crisp green chypre, reminding me a little of Y by YSL, Givenchy III and sure, Cristalle. I did not pay quite as little as mentioned in the article above, but it was still a steal compared to many of the current niche fragrances! Cheers,Wendy
What a nice story, thank you for sharing it!
You are making me sigh again for fragrances of a bygone era. Well, I’ve not tried Givenchy III but by all accounts it is wonderful. Hope you enjoyed your Diors.
To me, Givenchy III has more body and is “bigger” than Quartz. It’s really nice.
What a great story! It sounds like you had a terrific experience at Dior. I know what you mean about being anxious in a potentially snooty store (remember the Sex in the City episode where Carrie goes to Dior?) but it sounds like it was great.
This review was a delight to read ! It sounds like a real throw back to yesteryear where smells were simple and pure and didn’t try to represent or push a image / brand / celebrity ! Sigh* thank you for the review ! Pianissimo is a fabulous word by the way !
I don’t know how much more simple Quartz is than a lot of celebrity fragrances, but it definitely sets out a whole different mood, that’s for sure!
What a coincidence!! I just happened to win a bid of Quartz, Molyneux miniature…just before I read this review! It’s in blue navy box without that FEMME designation. I hope it’s a vintage one. Because I want to compare it to my 50ml’s which I’m not sure if it’s from today’s or not (I bought it in a local store without box).
From my 50ml, Quartz to me is a fruity chypre. However it has that powdery and zingy yet hurtful “poke to your nose” feeling that sometimes I got when I smell pineapple notes.
The powdery might comes from the Iris…but that hurtful feeling is that possibly comes from peach combine with benzoin? Or should that be the sign of the praised and unformulated oak moss?
Iris sometimes does smell powdery to me, as do some musks and a few other flowers (lily of the valley reminds me of powder) and probably a bunch of synthetic notes I can’t identify. But oak moss is pretty distinctive. Once you’ve identified it, you’ll be able to spot it in lots of old fragrances. In Quartz, I smell the moss mostly at the tail end of the fragrance, after it’s been on my skin a while. It smells kind of musty and fuzzy and almost has a fluffy-dirty smell. Some people don’t like it, but I love its warmth and thickness.
I happen to be wearing Quartz today! It’s a longtime favorite of mine. I find it to be refreshing and unusual. Clean, yes, and interesting. I agree that it’s light enough that you don’t have to worry about overwhelming people in the elevator.
Mine is still going strong this morning two hours after spritzing it on. At this point it does smell like wet stone, and “zingy” is a good way to describe the other part of the smell. Like citrus without being citrus.
I’m glad to hear Quartz works so well for you! It’s getting more and more rare to find people who wear it (which must be nice for you!).
Well gosh, ladies, you’ve ticked ALL my buzz words with this one – chypre, green, oakmoss, Y-like, relatively inexpensive.
This has been on my ‘need to try’ list for a while, but I think I shall bump it up closer to the top now. I don’t mind a hint of melon or peach. It’s the way some scents beat me over the head with them that I find objectionable. This sounds as though it could be very workable for me.
By the way, what exactly made the perfume industry move from Van Gogh still life to full on Carmen Miranda in the fruitiness department? Was someone really out there begging for such a change? lol
I have to wonder if the focus group spelled the demise of perfume for the more experienced (but less common) perfume wearer. Just like good music, wine, or cheese, it takes a while to get to know and appreciate some of the “harder” perfumes, but it’s so rewarding!
I have a feeling that the perfume industry realized the same thing that the clothing and entertainment industries realized: young people don’t have brand loyalty yet, and they spend their money more impulsively. The fruity florals are easier to market to young people than the “harder” perfumes are.
The harder perfumes seem to have a dwindling market share, for sure. But that market share is definitely dedicated–at least, I am!
I’m sorry I didn’t see your comment until today.
Bought this recently for my mother – we both love it but the lasting power is disappointing. Even more disappointing though is discovering how damned cheap it is over there – I paid almost $200 for it at the chintzy little Melbourne perfumery that sold it to me. May have to rethink where I source my perfumes from in future!
I know it’s a lot cheaper here–but still not super easy to find.