Posted 10.21.13 @ 7:35 by: Staff

With purple projected to be a big trend for 2014, it’s a great time to delve into the history of this lovely hue. Known for its enduring, bright qualities, Tyrian Purple (better known today as “Royal Purple”) has been one of the most sought after colours for the last 4000 years.

But why? Why does purple endure when we have so many other colours to choose from?

In the ancient world (even 150 years ago!) brightly coloured fabrics and textiles as we know them today were virtually non-existent – whatever was found in nature was pretty much what you got.

But instead of the usual beiges and browns, the Ancient Phoenicians in the city of Tyre (some evidence points to Minoans using it in 20th Century BC) found out that crushing thousands and thousands of marine snails would make a highly concentrated, durable purple dye. Over time the method would change to boiling in a vat to concentrate the color even more, but the color remained the same.

Only Royalty Could Afford It

But it wasn’t just brilliant – it was worth its weight in gold (or silver, according to historians in 4th Century B.C.). It took an astounding amount of resources, labor and know-how to create this purple. It started with collecting snails by the thousands – but only certain types of snails. The Murex, a special kind of mollusk, was the one that made Tyrian Purple.

Each mollusk makes 2 – count ‘em, 2 – drops of the dye. Dye makers would have to collect literally thousands of the sea creatures just to dye a single toga a dark purple black. There wasn’t much of science to it, as it’s been shown that as soon as a large enough population of the mollusks were located the dye makers would set up camp along the beach and harvest as many as possible and turn a profit while they could find it.

The dye makers would crush them up by the thousands, allowing them to rot in the sun and release the dye – depending on how long you left the dye exposed to the sun affected what kind of colour came out. From green, red, violet and even a black grape purple colour – the most desirable – could be drawn out of these mollusks. The smell was something awful, and was eventually supplanted by another dye that was easier to produce and a lot cheaper to harvest – lichen.

An Accident, Purple in Nature

The name of the color today remains the same, and it’s amazing to think that if someone hadn’t accidentally crushed a mollusk against a rock one time that we wouldn’t have royal purple! While the colour that we know as royal purple isn’t probably very close to what they knew in the old world, it is a beautiful color that still has a special status around the world even today.

People have been searching for the original formula to make Tyrian Purple just about as long as they’ve been trying to find the perfect home – and while we can’t tell you how many mollusks it takes to create the perfect toga, we can help you find a beautiful luxury home in Oakville that you’ll love. Give us a call today and experience all that the Goodale Miller Team has to offer you.

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