The Colour Purple

No, I’m not about to discuss to you about the book “The Color Purple” by Alice Walker (an exceptional read), but instead I’ve learned recently a lot about the history and origins regarding the color purple, most importantly the history of dyeing this color, and I wanted to share what I’ve learned about with you.

So the following is a short fact list of what I learned regarding the brilliant warm color.

Photo by Irina Iriser on

1.) Tyrian Purple is the first dyed color purple

This specific dye was found in the Phoenician era and was created out of the mucus of mollusks–yes, you heard that right. We can thank snails for the color we know and love today. In ancient times, they would extract the mucus from the snails and boil it with the cotton fabric that was popular at the time. (source)


2.) Synthetic Purple was Found While Looking for Quanine

William Henry Perkins was busy trying to make quanine at an at home chemistrry lab, he rediscovered the color purple in the form of synthetic dye. What is quanine? Quanine is a substance typically used to treat chlorea in the 19th century, and was expensive at the time. (source)


3.) Tyrian Purple was renamed “mauve” in 1836

While he was busy patening his new synthetic color, he decided that Tyrian purple just wasn’t catchy and Perkins Purple didn’t quite have the ring it needed. To attract the fashion audience, Tyrian purple was renamed “mauve”. Henceforth, the color mauve was born. (source)


4.) Purple Becomes Royal

During the Byzantine empire, the color purple takes a giant leap for mankind–becoming the color known for belonging to nobility. This color became hard to come by and readily sought for during the 14th century, and thus was worn as a status symbol. (source)

Photo by Andre Moura on