While today we are surrounded by a multitude of colors and nuances, that did not used to be the case a century or more ago. Believe it or not, that’s the main reason why some colors are not that common on flags. So, what is the rarest color used in flags? The answer is — purple!
The color of the kings, the color of wealth and royalty, was by far the most unpopular choice for making flags, even if the nation was extremely wealthy.
Let’s check the story behind the rarest flag color in the world.
100% Natural Color
While nowadays the price of a purple and blue shirt of the same style is identical, that was certainly not the case throughout history. Namely, today the color purple is usually artificially made. In the old (ancient) days, the only way to produce purple was by using natural materials.
In this case, that material was snails. The famous species,Bolinus brandaris.
Namely, to get the Tyrian purple, one would have to get hold of over 10,000 snails. That’s how many were needed for just one gram of purple color. Historically, purple dye was coming from Tyre, a Phonecian trading city (today’s Lebanon). A lot of work was invested in obtaining a gram of purple, and this area was the only one where the snails could be found.
Needless to say, the production process was beyond expensive.
How Much for the Purple?
As one may guess, no laymen could get hold of the color purple at the time. A pound of the purple dye would cost $56,000 in today’s terms. Hence, it is little wonder that only the richest rulers in the world could afford to wear it and that’s also the reason why purple got associated with royalty, so it’s actually called Royal purple or Imperial purple.
In ancient Rome, a pound ofpurple wool was the same as a pond of gold. In a similar way, you would need three pounds of gold to purchase a pound of purple dye.
However, all this was to change in the 19th century.
Who Invented Affordable Purple?
The synthetic purple is special not only due to the fact it finally became affordable, but it was the first synthetic dye as well. Moreover, its discovery was initially a disappointment.
William Perkin, a young chemist at the Royal College, was only 18 when he was trying to extract quinine in a lab. Another failed experiment left him with a “black sticky mess”. Upon dissolving it in alcohol, Perkin created the aniline purple, i.e. mauvine, in 1856.
After the discovery, he became very rich while the color purple finally became very cheap.
Which Country Flags Have Purple on Them?
Taking everything into consideration, the flags that have purple color on them were all designed after the discovery of the artificial dye. Otherwise, they would’ve been too pricey to be made.
Only the flags of Dominica and Nicaragua have purple on them. The flag of Dominica was approved in 1978 while the Nicaraguan flag was first adopted in 1908. The latter has only a bit of purple on its symbols. The Dominica flag is bolder in its usage of purple as its central symbol, the Sisserou parrot, has a purple breast.