A History of the Color Purple - Jewelry & Lampwork Beads
In ancient times, the color purple was viewed as a symbol of wealth and royalty and in modern times purple, it is still immensely popular. It has left its mark in music history with the song “Purple Haze” by Jimmi Hendrix being inducted into the Grammy Hall of Fame and “Purple Rain” by Prince being named one of the best songs of all time, and in literature with the well-loved book “The Color Purple,” which has since been turned into both an award-winning movie and a celebrated musical.
It is used in awareness campaigns for epilepsy to women’s rights, and the Purple Heart is an award given to American soldiers who are wounded or killed while serving and is one of the oldest military decorations in the United States. From lavender to violet, amethyst to irises, purple has quite a story to tell!
Originally made by the ancient Phoenicians, the dye known as “Tyrian Purple,” named after the city of Tyre which was famous for making purple cloth, was made from mucus from inside the shell of a marine snail called the bolinus brandaris. In order to retrieve this mucus, collectors had to crack open the snail’s shell and remove a gland containing the liquid which would when exposed to air, slowly become a beautiful purple color. It took hundreds of thousands of these snails to make only the smallest bit of Tyrian purple dye, which is why it was so immensely expensive, and so many of these snails were killed in the making of purple dye that the species almost went extinct.
Scientists today have discovered millions upon millions of shells that were tossed into the Mediterranean Sea centuries ago. But in 1856, an 18-year-old chemist named William Henry Perkin from the United Kingdom, while working with a substance that was being used to treat malaria, accidentally produced an easy-to-make purple dye. He named it mauvine after the French word for the purple mallow flower, mauve. It was a much brighter purple than the old Tyrian Purple had been and it was one of the first synthetic dyes ever created. Quickly, Perkins bought a factory and began mass-producing it, and because of his work, purple became a much more commonly used color.
Purple symbolizes imagination, fantasy, romance, mystery, and wisdom. It is a calming and uplifting color and has been known to spark creativity. Purple isn’t a color that is found very often in nature, and because of this, purple flowers such as violets, pansies, crocuses, and lilacs, are viewed as precious, beautiful, and even sacred. They show up in bridal bouquets, arrangements, and more, and a gift of these flowers such as these is often used to congratulate a major event or transition in one’s life. The color purple is part of the trio of colors, purple, white, and green, which represent the women’s suffragette movement. Very dark shades of purple are often seen as galactic and astronomical and artists tend to use those colors in paintings of the galaxy and outer space. Purple Day, which is celebrated every year on the 26th of March, is a holiday that promotes epilepsy awareness, and it was created by a 9-year-old girl from Canada named Cassidy Meghan who was inspired to spread knowledge about epilepsy because of her own struggles with the condition. The reason she chose the color purple as the official color for the day is that the lavender plant is a popular herbal treatment for epilepsy.
In jewelry, there are many gorgeous purple gemstones, some of the most popular including amethyst, tanzanite, and lolite. The shades vary greatly from tanzanite’s almost blue color to amethyst’s bright hue to the translucent lavender of taaffeite, but they all have their own special, unique feature. For example, the purple sapphire is one of the strongest gemstones, purple fluorite is often used in carving, amethyst is the birthstone for the month of February, and purple diamonds are the second rarest color of the diamond in the world. Swarovski, the famous Austrian crystal company, has an extensive line of purple gemstones, which are very popular. In the Lampwork glass world, there is a wide range of purple glass colors that can be used to create lampwork beads.
The color purple symbolizes so many beautiful and important things and continues to stand for amazing causes around the world today. It is seen in flowers, gemstones, fruits, vegetables, art and so much more, and remains a very popular favorite color today. While purple may be the last color in the rainbow, it will certainly never be the least!
- Copyright 123RF: ekina