Purple Living

By Ben Collinson

Purple’s rarity in nature and the expense of creating the colour has given it a supernatural aura for centuries. Purple is also the most powerful wavelength of the rainbow – and it’s a colour with a powerful history that has evolved over time.

If we go back to our pre-historic existence, our ancestors probably never saw a purple fruit, flower, bird, fish - or any living thing - because purple is very rare in nature. This is hard to imagine in today’s connected world.

As civilisations developed, so did clothing and coloured dyes. The earliest purple dyes date back to about 1900 B.C. It took some 12,000 shellfish to extract 1.5 grams of the pure dye - barely enough for dying a single garment the size of the Roman toga. It’s no wonder then, that this colour was used primarily for garments of the emperors or privileged individuals.

Over the course of history, purple pigments and dyes became less costly and complex, but one thing has remained the same: Purple symbolises nobility and luxury to most people in the world. Among Mediterranean people, purple was reserved for emperors and popes. The Japanese christened it “Imperial Purple”.

Today, science has revealed much more about purple than our ancestors ever realised: Purple is the most powerful visible wavelength of electromagnetic energy. It’s just a few steps away from x-rays and gamma rays. Perhaps this explains why purple is associated with supernatural energy and the cosmos than with the physical world as we know it.

Taking all aspects of purple’s past and present into consideration, purple symbolises magic, mystery, spirituality, the sub-conscious, creativity, dignity, royalty – and it evokes all of these meanings more so than any other colour.