Art History Lab

Uncovering the Mysteries of Purple: From Royalty to Rarity

The color purple has long been associated with royalty, spirituality, and mystery. From its historical rarity to its vibrant shades, purple remains an enigmatic hue that never fails to captivate our imagination.

In this article, we shall delve into the history and properties of this unique color. We’ll look at different shades, their names, and the emotions they evoke.

So buckle up and let’s explore what makes purple so special.

Definition and Associations with Purple

Purple has a long history of symbolic meaning across different cultures. In Western cultures, it is associated with royalty and nobility, while in Eastern cultures, it symbolizes spirituality and enlightenment.

Purple is created by mixing blue and red, which makes it a secondary color. The human eye is more sensitive to blue, and, as a result, the blue color dominates purple.

This dominating blue undertone gives purple a calming and soothing effect. In terms of semiotics, purple is often associated with luxury, power, and magic.

It’s no wonder that many high-end brands use purple in their branding to convey opulence and exclusivity. Hence, people often associate purple with things that are precious and valuable.

History and Rarity of Purple

Purple is one of the most challenging colors to create and has a rich history associated with it. It is believed that the ancient Phoenicians were the first to discover the purple pigment, Tyrian purple.

They made it by extracting a dye from the gland of Murex snails found in the eastern Mediterranean. This pigment was exclusively used for the robes of rulers, kings, and priests due to its rarity and expensiveness.

During the Roman Empire, Tyrian purple became a symbol of power and prestige used by the elite class. Later, purple came into use in the Byzantine Empire, where it was considered a sacred color used in the vestments of bishops and priests.

Purple’s rarity and symbolic meaning were present across many cultures around the world, from the Egyptians’ creation of purple using berries to the Chinese discovering Han purple.

Different Shades of Purple

Overview of Purple Shades

Purple comes in quite a wide representation of shades. Light shades have a more calming effect, while deep and rich shades evoke a sense of luxury and sophistication.

Paired with sharper and brighter shades, the effect can be more lively. Purple has proven itself to be an endlessly versatile color with many shades for different moods and settings.

Popular Purple Shades and Their Names

1. Tyrian Purple (#6B3964)

Tyrian Purple has a deep, rich hue and served as a status symbol in ancient times due to its rarity.

The name comes from the ancient city of Tyre, where the purple dye was first produced. 2.

Amethyst (#9966CC)

Amethyst comes from the quartz mineral and features a deep lilac shade. It’s often seen as a symbol pertaining to the qualities of wisdom and clarity.

3. Dark Purple (#4B0082)

Dark purple is a rich color that resonates with mystery and intellect.

It’s often used in branding that wants to portray a sense of

4. Lavender Field Purple (#8B6B8B)

Lavender Field Purple, as the name suggests, is a soft purple inspired by the colors seen in a field of lavender.

It is commonly used in bedroom and sitting room decor as a comfortable and relaxing hue. 5.

Aubergine (#4B3C41)

Aubergine is a dark shade of purple that tends to embody elegance. The deep color looks great paired with creams and golds to create a sensual and dramatic atmosphere.

6. Plum (#660066)

Plum is a combination of red and purple and is associated with wealth and sophistication.

It’s a great color to use when you want to create a refined atmosphere. 7.

Bright Purple (#BF3EFF)

Bright purple is a fun and playful shade that’s perfect for brightening up dull rooms. It can also be used to give an edgy touch of quirkiness to branding.

8. Orchid Purple (#DA70D6)

Orchid Purple, similar to Amethyst, comes from the quartz mineral and has a pinkish-purplish tone.

It’s a sophisticated color that can be used to create an atmosphere that is both energetic and calming. 9.

Grape (#6F2DA8)

Grape is a deep, rich color that embodies luxury and sophistication. It’s a great hue to use in branding that needs to set a high-end tone.

10. Mulberry (#5C2E41)

Mulberry is a deep shade of purple with undertones of gray and black.

It’s a great hue for creating an atmosphere that is both moody and sophisticated.


In conclusion, purple is a majestic and captivating color that holds significant symbolic meaning across different cultures. From its history and rarity to its various shades, purple has proven to be an endlessly versatile hue that can convey different moods and emotions.

Replete with associations with nobility, luxury, and spirituality, it’s no wonder that purple remains a popular color in branding, fashion, and decor.

Color Theory and Psychology of Purple

Color Temperature of Purple

Color temperature refers to the warmth or coolness of a color. Warm colors, such as red, orange, and yellow, are associated with energy, excitement, and passion, while cool colors, such as blue, green, and purple, are associated with calmness, relaxation, and serenity.

Purple is unique in that it straddles both warm and cool colors. This is because purple is created by mixing blue and red, which are two primary colors found on opposite sides of the color wheel.

Hence, the temperature of purple is dependent on the ratio of blue to red used. A purple shade with more blue will have a cooler temperature, while a purple shade with more red will have a warmer temperature.

Complementary Colors and Purple

Complementary colors enhance each other by creating visual contrast. When placed together, complementary colors create a vibrancy that is not found when used separately.

Yellow is the complementary color of purple, and it is considered a warm color. When yellow is paired with purple, there is an eye-catching contrast between the two colors that creates a dynamic effect.

The best way to achieve a striking contrast is to use complementary colors in their full saturation and brightness. The intensity of the contrast depends on the amount of color usage.

For example, if you use too much of the complementary color, it will detract from the vibrancy of the combination. Purple Color vs.

Violet Color

Violet and purple are often used interchangeably, but they are actually slightly different from each other. Violet is a spectral color that is a combination of blue and red, while purple is a non-spectral color created by mixing blue and red.

Violet is found in the visible spectrum of light, while purple requires the mixing of two colors. The main difference between the two is that violet has a higher frequency and shorter wavelength, while purple has a lower frequency and longer wavelength.

Due to the scientific nature of the distinction, it’s most common to use the term purple for most purposes.

Tyrian Purple – The Most Expensive Shade

Origin and Production of Tyrian Purple

Tyrian Purple, also called Royal Purple, is one of the most expensive shades of purple in the world, and it has a rich history. The Greeks were the first to discover the purple pigment, which was extracted from the glands of Murex snails found in the eastern Mediterranean.

The snails were fermented in salt and left to decay, creating a liquid that would turn into a purple pigment after filtration and sun exposure. The production process was painfully time-consuming and labor-intensive, and it required over 10,000 snails to produce one gram of the dye.

Due to its rarity, Tyrian Purple was used almost exclusively by the wealthiest members of society such as rulers, royalty, and high priests as a symbol of their power and status.

Rarity and Value of Tyrian Purple

Due to the high cost and scarcity of Tyrian Purple, it was reserved for the most exclusive circles in ancient times. The dye was so rare that it cost nearly its weight in silver, making it ten times more valuable than gold.

The expense of Tyrian Purple continued throughout history, and it remained a luxury of the wealthy. Its value was also tied to its historical rarity, which lent it a sense of exclusivity and mystique that continued to be sought after by those of means.

Today, the rarity of Tyrian Purple has made it more of a collector’s item than something to be used in everyday life. Its symbolic value endures, however, as a marker of power and status.


In conclusion, purple is a complex and multifaceted color that embodies both warm and cool temperatures. Its spectrum of shades affords great versatility and creativity in painting, fashion, and design.

The history and value of the dye Tyrian Purple remain a remarkable testament to its rarity and significance in human society. With its rich associations with royalty, luxury, and spirituality, purple remains a coveted color today and an enduring symbol of sophistication and status.

Conclusion and Application of Purple

Summary of Purple Information

In summary, purple is a rich and versatile color that has a deep symbolic significance rooted in history. It is associated with royalty, luxury, spirituality, and mystery, and its spectrum of shades makes it an endlessly creative color to use in design.

Color theory tells us that purple straddles both warm and cool colors, depending on the ratio of blue to red used, and it is complemented by the warm color of yellow. The rare and prestigious dye of Tyrian Purple has lent the color a remarkable value and mystique throughout history, and its scarcity has contributed to its enduring popularity as both a status symbol and cultural icon.

Practical Use and Application of Purple

The practical applications of purple are myriad and diverse. Interior decorating is one area where purple can add a touch of sophistication and drama to a room.

Dark and rich shades of purple can be used in bedrooms to create a cozy atmosphere, while brighter shades can be used to create a lively and vibrant living room. Painting and digital art are other areas where purple can add a unique and creative touch.

The range of available purple shades can be used to create endless combination opportunities. A purple color palette can be inspiring for artists looking to create works that evoke emotion or convey depth and meaning.

Branding is another area where purple is commonly used. Because of its associations with luxury, power, and status, purple is ideal for branding that seeks to evoke a sense of exclusivity and sophistication.

Examples of brands that use purple in their logos include Cadbury, Hallmark, and Yahoo. In conclusion, purple has a long and rich history that informs its contemporary symbolic significance.

As a color choice, it offers myriad possibilities for creative expression and is a perennially popular and inspiring hue to touch upon all fields of design. In conclusion, the color purple holds a fascinating history and symbolism that transcends time and cultures.

From its associations with royalty, spirituality, and luxury to its diverse range of shades, purple remains a versatile and sought-after color that continues to captivate our imaginations. Its application in various fields, such as interior decorating, painting, and branding, allows for creative expression and the creation of visually striking experiences.

The rarity of Tyrian Purple stands as a testament to its historical significance and enduring allure. Whether we are drawn to the calming coolness or the energetic warmth of purple, one thing is clear: this color holds a timeless appeal that continues to engage and inspire us.

Popular Posts