Beyond the Color Wheel: Indigo

Indigo, the color of elegance, strength and wonder. It can stimulate clear thinking and captivates the imagination. Indigo is a dramatic color that creates a bold impact. Don’t be afraid to use a dark color in a small space.  Indigo is a great choice for a powder room. It adds a richness and creates a cozy environment that is sure to wow your guests. Indigo also emits feelings of luxury, making it a great choice for a library, bar, entry or formal living room.

Photo Credit: @rededition

Photo Credit: @rededition

Photo Credit: @volcanod

Photo Credit: @volcanod

While we see and use color in our everyday lives, rarely do we think about how that color has come to be. Indigo has an interesting history from being harvested as a natural dye, to the synthetic reproduction in the late 1800s and even it’s discovery on the color spectrum.

The history of indigo dates back to 4000 BC in what is now modern day Peru. The color indigo is named after the dye that is derived from the Indigofera Tinctoria plant. Though the complicated process has been modernized by machines, creating natural indigo dye is incredibly cumbersome.  

Indigofera tinctoria.jpg

“First the greenery was fermented in an alkaline solution. The liquid was then drawn off and vigorously beaten to aerate it. This caused a blue sediment to form, which was then dried into cakes or blocks to be sent off to market.” (The Secret Lives of Color)

Indigo-Process-3.jpg
Photo Credit: ayafiberstudio.com

Photo Credit: ayafiberstudio.com

In the 1660’s, Isaac Newton discovered that indigo was one of the seven base colors. He projected a beam of sunlight through a prism to create the rainbow,

“The...primary colours are, Red, Yellow, Green, Blew, and a Violet-purple, together with Orange, Indico, and an indefinite variety of Intermediate gradations.”

prism.png

Culturally, indigo is found in the burial customs of many cultures. The ancient Egyptians dyed the edge of their burial linens with indigo. In fact, most of the Tutankhamun’s wardrobe was indigo.

Blue Kerchief from Tutankhamun's Embalming Cache

Blue Kerchief from Tutankhamun's Embalming Cache

Today, most indigo dye is synthetic. Indigo was first synthesized by Adolph von Bayer, who identified the molecular structure of natural indigo and recreated it in a lab. This allowed indigio to be made on demand. Synthetic dye is more durable and does not lose its pigmentation as quickly over time. Most commercial denim is made using synthetic indigo. Though synthetic indigo is more readily available and cheaper, it does not have the same quality and depth as natural indigo.

natural indigo.jpg

Whether synthetic or natural, indigo  is not going anyway where. This thousand year old color maintains its appeal in interior design, art, textiles and fashion.

indigo dye.jpg

Bonus fact: It was discovered in 2008, that when a banana becomes ripe, they glows indigo under a blacklight. This allows animals who see ultraviolet to know when a banana is ripe and ready to eat.

bananas.jpg