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The History of the Color Red

The production of the color red has historically been a difficult task. There are several ways of constructing the red pigment, in this blog I will present some examples of the different processes.


The cinnabar ore

During ancient Rome (753 BC-476 AD), the Cinnabar method was used. Cinnabar is the ore (rock) composition of natural mercuric sulfide - a rare and costly item, and through the process of smelting which is the use of heat and a chemical reducing agent, the cinnabar is decomposed,

Cochineal on cactus

removing certain elements and leaving behind just the metal base mercury. The Realgar method orange-red powder (composed of natural arsenic sulfide - a very rare unstable substance with the arsenic being highly toxic). The Minium method (that is a white lead artificially heated yielding the color red). The Hematite method (this is a mineral containing large amount of iron, thought to be the main ore of iron.. This ore contains streaks of red. It is from the Greek word "Haimatitis" as it is thought to resemble to color of blood-red. When crushed a fine red powder is yielded.


During the middle ages (476 AD-1492) or the medieval period the Mexican Cochineal method was used to produce red pigment. Thought to be more superior than prior techniques, likely because it is less toxic. Cochineal is a very small insects predominantly found in tropical or subtropical regions of Mexico, South America and the Southwest of the United States. It is a parasitic insect that uses the nopal cactus as its host. Once these insects are harvested, they are collected, dried and grinded to reveal a carmine red color. Given its nontoxic, organic or natural property, this product is also used as a dye in food product.


Given the extensive process to produce this pigment and its history of rarity, it is no

wonder the color red historically as been something of aristocracy use. It was forbidden to be used by the laymen, it was reserved for the exhibition by Kings and Queens. During the middle ages, Judges were most often dressed in red. With regards to red color shoes, only Kings and Popes were permitted to wear them . Many Popes wear red shoes because it was recognized long ago that wearing the color red communicated stature and power. I believe the same is true today. Similar emotion is evoked when I wear a red blouse, I automatically feel strong and light spirited. My emotions become transformed positively when I look in the mirror, clouds are lifted from my thoughts.

I suggest experimenting with whatever you have that is red in your closet. Take a long gaze at yourself in the mirror after donning a red blouse, a red dress or a red pair of shoes, see how you truly feel. Please feel free to share your thoughts on this blog site.

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