Purple: A Royal Colour

International colour company Pantone have given a shade of purple called Radiant Orchid their vote as the colour of 2014. Yet, love for this royal colour came thousands of years ago.

Historically speaking, purple has been the colour of royalty, favoured by Roman Emperors and the like. About 3500 years ago, citizens from the ancient places of Sidon and Tyre (present day Lebanon) found a remarkable new source of purple.

It came at a cost. Thousands upon thousands (and add to that again) of a certain kind of sea snail found in the Mediterranean Sea – spiny dye-murex, to be precise – were used to make a purple dye by these savvy textile workers.

Interestingly, thousands of shells have been discovered on these ancient sites, leading archeologists to deduce that such places would have been the production sites of this popular export.

It may not have passed the Greenpeace stamp of approval but nonetheless these snails were extracted for their glands, which when dried out, changed from yellow-green to green to violet, to red which eventually became purple.

The process had to be stopped at precisely the right time to get the desired hue. Fabric would be dyed into these colour, and you could be sure that this dye would always be bright and lasting – able to survive the toughest machine wash if such things were around back then!

This particular dye of purple, which could vary slightly in shade, was known as Tyrian Purple, as well as simply Imperial Purple. From kings to nobles, magistrates and priests, Tyrian Purple was all the rage all around the Mediterranean.

Its use is found in the Bible. For instance, even as far back as Exodus, the colour purple was used in the curtains of the Tabernacle. Also, King Solomon used Tyrian purple in the temple he constructed for the Lord.

Even in ancient stories, like the Odyssey, Queen Penelope and her king hubby, had purple blankets on their wedding bed.

It took ten thousand sea snails to make one gram of dye, which no doubt justified its very costly price. Thankfully, these days purple is much more readably available.

Disclaimer: while it’s interesting to take note of trends, Oscar Wilde gives some worthy food for thought…

“Fashion is a form of ugliness so intolerable that we have to alter it every six months.”Oscar Wilde

So with that in mind, I say – yes, purple might be in ‘season’ this year but for those who love it … let is always be in season!

wedding centrepiece radiant orchid


Some wedding inspiration, for any brides to be dreaming of purple in their wedding theme! This savvy bride used differing shades of purple and made her own table setting decorations using glass vases, little beads and fresh flowers. 

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