We have covered the origins of several colors before here at Colour Studio but this week we wanted to share a funny and frank infographic that turned up on Reddit. Made by a paint lover, it shows and describes a few of the lesser thought about aspects of turning raw materials into colors before the Industrial Revolution. While we don’t know when malachite was first being used as a mineral dye we do know, like most on this list, fell out of use in the 1800’s.
Malachite is green for the same reason the Statue of Liberty is green: oxidizing copper. The malachite forms as water runs off copper ore in underground deposits and the sediment creates stalactites and stalagmites. These beautiful stones, which were often used for jewelry and royal crowns, were crushed to make vibrant green dyes and paints.
But wait, green is not the only color copper’s got up its sleeve. Next on the list is azurite. This weathering copper is actually one stage earlier in the copper mineralization time line. Like malachite, azurite is deposited by water, and it too forms those distinctive layering patterns in geode shapes. Azurite is unstable when exposed to air and itself weathers into malachite.
The origins of black are admittedly banal. It’s made from burnt … anything really. “If it burns you can likely make black pigment out of it,” wood, cloth, even animal bones. But purple is surprising. Purple was made from predatory sea snails that only live in tropical waters. While the graphic does say the dye is produced from grinding the shells other sources point instead to the snails secretions. But either way it’s certainly unique.
The graphic is fun and eye opening and a must read for all of our fellow color lovers !