Purple has been with us since ancient days.
According to a legend handed down through the centuries, purple was discovered by Heracles, or rather his dog. It all began when Heracles, with his dog and his companion nymph, Tyrus, decided to take an afternoon walk along the coastline of the Levant. It was a beautiful day, with the wind coming off the water and the sun sending warmth to the earth.
Suddenly, Heracles’s dog spotted tender snails and greedily bit into the delicious feast. What happened to his mouth? It was all purple.
It was only a matter of time before Heracles put two and two together to establish the cause of the purple stain around the mouth of his dog – those tender snails held the power of purple.
It was said that Tyrus, the nymph, embraced the beauty of the purple as her own. She demanded that Heracles create a garment for her of the same colour. And that, my dear friends, was how Tyrian purple came into the world.
As an aside, I had no idea that Heracles was known to make garments. But I digress…
The colour purple was truly a gift from the sea, for there was only one source for this brilliant colour – the secretions of a specific gland of the unfortunate and rare species of sea snail now known as Bolinus brandaris.
Fortunately, we have learned to create the purple colour in more sustainable ways, thanks to Sir William Henry Perkin (1838-1907),a British chemist and entrepreneur, who was trying to synthesize quinine for treatment of malaria. It was a failed attempt. But serendipity stepped in when his experiment created the first synthetic organic dye – mauveine (aka purple). He was only 18 years old, an auspicious beginning for entrepreneurial endeavours. But that is another story…