It happens: a hazy deja vu brought on by a familiar fragrance. Throughout history, perfumes have conjured up the exotic, the romantic and the mysterious.

Today fragrance still embodies rare spices, oils and resins that must be collected by hand. There is hardly a part of the world that does not give the perfumer ingredients. Only when the scent has been created -- a process that can take a couple of years -- and handed over to the marketer, does perfume become a product.

Even in this consumer mode, perfume pulls on the strings of human emotion. Great thought goes into creating a name and a bottle that will express, through sight and touch, the perfume it holds. Annette Green, executive director of The Fragrance Institute, emphasizes, "Fragrance is very difficult to communicate. You can't have a red fragrance with a cool blue name. The consumer will be disappointed."

Perfumes go on. They mingle as comfortably with Pharaohs as they do with Prince. CAPTION: Picture, SCENTS AND THEIR SHAPES: White Linen in shell flacon by Estee Lauder, 1/4 oz. perfume, $42.50, at Garfinckel's; KL by Karl Lagerfeld in a delicate fan bottle, 1/4 oz. perfume, $55, at Bloomingdale's; Ombre Rose in a black engraved octagonal bottle, 1/2 oz. perfume, $95, at Bloomingdale's; oval crystal potpourri box with engraved silver cover, $125, at Dolly Kay Designs, Ltd.; Diva by Ungaro, 3.4 oz. eau de parfum, $50, at Neiman-Marcus; Paloma Picasso eau de toilette in a black circular dispenser, 2.5 oz., $40, at Bloomingdale's; J. Marc Sinan perfume in a crescent shape, with rhinestone-inlaid top, 1 oz., $160, at Garfinckel's; Nike de Saint Phalle eau do toilette atomizer, 4 oz., $90, at Bloomingdale's; Estee in a cylindrical bottle by Estee Lauder, 1/4 oz. perfume, $35, at Garfinckel's; L'Air d'Or perfume, with actual 23-carat gold shavings, 1 oz., $275, at Bloomingdale's; crystal rouge pot with engraved silver lid, $140, at Dolly Kay.