Saturday, June 9, 2012

Coloring Time

Before chemical dyes were invented in Victorian Times, clothing was dyed with colors derived from plants, insects, and snails. These dyes were often obtained by labor intensive methods, which made them very expensive. Red clothing, seen in paintings from the 1600's through early 1800's, was colored with a dye obtained from insects--Cochineal or Kermes. Purple came from the Murex snail, one drop per snail. No wonder Roman Senators only wore a toga bordered in purple while only the Emperor dressed completely in purple. A purple garment was worth a fortune. Woad and indigo plants produce blues. Logwood made black. The Lincoln green, of Robin Hood fame, involved over-dying cloth dyed blue with woad with yellow dyer's broom.

As much money in dyes was exported from South and Central America by the Spanish as was in gold, silver, and emeralds. The British army wears red coats, because the Earl of Essex captured a Spanish treasure ship full of Cochineal red--dried insect dye.

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