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The Harvard Library That Protects The World’s Rarest Colors
“The most unusual colors from Harvard’s storied pigment library include beetle extracts, poisonous metals, and human mummies.”
Ever wondered where colours come from?
Today, we have every colour possible at a click of a mouse. We can click and drag swatches and colour graphs to mix and create no hues.
Rewind a few centuries ago and finding that one specific colour could have meant searching the globe for that specific mineral deposit in remote Afghanistan. As it was with the mysterious Lapis Lazuli, renown for its brilliant blue, making it more valuable than gold in medieval times.
Here are a few rare and bizarre colours:
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“This was discovered in 1826 as the result of a contest. In a way it is like discovering how to make gold as artists no longer had to buy natural ultramarine at great cost.”
“People would harvest mummies from Egypt and then extract the brown resin material that was on the wrappings around the bodies and turn that into a pigment. It’s a very bizarre kind of pigment, I’ve got to say, but it was very popular in the 18th and 19th centuries.”
“Brazilwood is any of several tropical trees of the senna genus. Its hard, red-color wood has had limited use for violins, bows, veneer, and high-quality furniture. The wood contains the colorant brasilin, which gives a deep-red to brownish color. Brazilwood dye has been used for textile and leather dyes, inks, paints, varnish tints, and wood stains.”
“A yellow vegetable dye, quercitron is extracted from the black or dark brown bark of the black oak, Quercus velutina, that is native to the Eastern and Midwestern parts of the United States.”
“The lipstick plant—a small tree, Bixa orellana, native to Central and South America—produces annatto, a natural orange dye. Seeds from the plant are contained in a pod surrounded with a bright red pulp. Currently, annatto is used to color butter, cheese, and cosmetics.”
“It has a great name, but it’s not from dragons. [The bright red pigment] is from the rattan palm.”
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