Colors of Beauty.

Colours have their own legends, myths and meaning. They represent emotions and affect us unconsciously. Have you ever wondered what stories time has written for them throughout centuries? All of them are truly fascinating and have a deeper meaning than we expect. What tales will your silk pillowcases whisper to your ear when you fall asleep? What legends will the silk eye masks show you in your dreams? Keep reading to find the gripping story of the five beautiful colors kept in silk.

Silver Grey – the feminine, the wealthy and the supernatural

Metals hold a special place in the history of mankind. Their value was recognised pretty quickly. At the same time people started to connect metals with supernatural symbolism. While gold was seen as a masculine representation of the Sun, silver with its mysterious and soft gleam was perceived as the opposite. It represented the Moon and femininity to finally become the symbol of the night.

Silver was also believed to have some superpowers. It was supposed to protect from evil and wrongdoing. Think of all the films about witches, werewolves and vampires. It is not a coincidence that silver is used to protect people and fight with the forces of evil. Interestingly, the concept of silver having protective properties evolved and it soon was seen as capable of detecting poisons. When it came in contact with one it was supposed to change its colour. That is why people started using silver cutlery to make sure their meals were safe. Later silverware became a standard.

From the material point of view, gold has always been the most important metal throughout history but it is silver that links the past with the present. Spanish conquistadors exported 80% of the world silver supply in two centuries. This influx of riches allowed Spain to flourish for almost five hundred years. This procedure was developed to such an extent that Argentina was named after Latin argentum, which means silvery.

However, silver isn’t only a symbol of the past. When we think about the future, silver has always been seen as the colour of progress. For the twentieth century cultures it has been a symbol of space travel and cosmic discoveries.

Blush Pink – the most disputed colour

Believe it or not but no other colour has ever been so fiercely disputed in the history of mankind. First, it all started with the name itself. While it had already been coined and used in many languages, English still did not have it in the seventeenth century. Pink was seen as a shade of red, not a separate colour and it took a while to finally come under spotlight. It became possible thanks to its growing popularity. Ceramics, clothing and painting used it so often in the seventeenth century that steps had to be finally made. The name derived from pinks (Dianthus plumarius) – small flowers from carnation family.

Pretty soon the colour was highly fashionable and became a hot trend in Rococo. The influencer of that time became no one else but Madame de Pompadour, the mistress of King Louis XV of France. She adored the colour so much that it soon became a hit. Pink was a colour of choice for everyone who wanted to highlight their strong character. Mostly among women.

Now, the gender dispute. It is widely acknowledged that pink is a perfect choice for girls while blue is much preferred by boys. However, it hasn’t always been the case. In the past it was quite the opposite. Mothers dressed their sons in pink as it was viewed as a strong colour. After all, it was seen as a shade of red, which symbolised power and rank. Blue, on the other hand, was perceived as more muted and delicate so it was chosen for girls. Some time later the quarrel began. In the 1920s it came to a point where American companies in some states declared that pink is more masculine while other states believed the opposite. Forty years later the transition of girly pink and boyish blue was completed and it has stayed till now to some extent.

From the material point of view, gold has always been the most important metal throughout history but it is silver that links the past with the present. Spanish conquistadors exported 80% of the world silver supply in two centuries. This influx of riches allowed Spain to flourish for almost five hundred years. This procedure was developed to such an extent that Argentina was named after Latin argentum, which means silvery.

It won’t be an overstatement to say that pink throughought history was both feminine and masculine, strong and delicate, merely a shade and finally a colour itself. It turns out to be the colour which can embrace all divisions and overcome all obstacles.

French Beige – a modest colour of big concepts

The feeling of warmth, comfort and sustainability. Beige is one of these colours which have hundreds of shades on the market but none of them is simply called beige. Those who have ever bought a can of wall paint know what I’m talking about.

Some people love it and build their whole interior design and wardrobe around it, others believe it is merely a colour, it is too safe and completely uninspiring. For those of you who belong to the ‘I loathe beige’ club – let me change your mind with a bit of its history background.

The word itself comes from French and it was coined in the mid-nineteenth century. Beige referred to a cloth made from sheep’s wool in its natural colour as it was never dyed. Time passed and finally the shade and the cloth itself shared the same name. By the end of the nineteenth century it became en vogue in autumn clothing as it was a perfect companion for other colours.

Beige is not as loud as hot pink, equally strong as acid green or breathtaking as Egyptian blue but it builds a different narrative. It is a symbol of kindness, friendliness and reliability. That is why the first Mackintosh computers were produced in beige to promote their casual and friendly style. Do you want something bigger to acknowledge its greatness? At one point in time two scientists scrutinised the universe to see what colour it was. They examined over 200,000 galaxies to find out that the space is actually beige. To make it sound more exciting they came up with a new name – cosmic latte.

Midnight Black – the colour of everything and nothing

Black isn’t a colour. Those who believe this statement are right, but those who deny to accept it aren’t wrong either. This is the best way to portray the history of black – full of juxtapositions, contrasts and incredible stories.

Technically, black isn’t a colour but rather the darkest version of any shade. It is also what we see (or rather can’t see) when there is no light. So it wouldn’t be an overstatement to say that black is both the lack of colour and all the colours joined together. This probably makes it unique, fascinating and interpreted in so many and often completely different ways by various cultures.

Black has very often been associated with dark forces, evil, sadness and everything that we don’t know, so it scares us. On the other hand, it has been believed to have a more exceptional and gentle side at the same time. Associated with dark forces in Western culture, black was used by Indian parents in kohl applied as eye make-up for their children to protect them from wrongdoing. They went a step further and added a bit of powdered charcoal to milk so that its whiteness wouldn’t attract evil. Native Americans, on the other hand, perceived black not to be the symbol of fear but rather bravery, power and strength.

Black became also a colour of fashion sooner than we could expect it. Around the fifteenth century it started having undeniably great connotations. Used in clothing, black dye, if created skillfully, was finally true black as opposed to horrible yellowish dark grey, which had existed for far too long. Because of its depth and the process of creation, black was perceived as the colour of luxury. Later it started being used by serious professionals to mark the importance of their profession, as well as their honesty, purpose and temperance. Lawyers, merchants, doctors, clergy – they all turned to black as the colour of choice. We had to wait a few centuries for black to grow its status even more. First it was Ford with his cars which were manufactured only in black and soon after that Coco Chanel popularised black in fashion turning it into a symbol of refinement. Her concept of a little black dress stood the test of time and became a staple piece of clothing in a wardrobe of every elegant woman.

One more interesting thing about black is that it absorbs light. In 2014 the blackest black has been created. Vantablack traps almost 99,97% of the spectrum and is the deepest shade ever seen by the human eye. It is incredible to look at, as it seems to be a boundless realm from another dimension – a microworld full of endless possibilities.

Powder White – the pure, the exclusive, the rare

White is the colour of light. That’s probably why it has long been associated with everything that is good, honourable and sweet. It is also the symbol of exclusivity. It is the only paint shade which cannot be created from other colours. It exists on its own and doesn’t need anyone else to come into being.

Historically speaking, while white was quite easily accessible in painting, it was tricky to achieve in clothing. It soon became an option only for the rich, while the less wealthy had to deal with the greyish and yellowish hues of natural materials. On the other hand, fabrics such as cotton for example had to be heavily processed to make them sparking white, which made them extremely expensive. It was also a troublesome endeavour to keep them spotless. That is why white quickly became the symbol of cleanliness and was adapted in various fields of human life. From spotless tablecloths to professional medical apparel, it is the colour representing all the goodness in the world.

However, don’t get fooled by its sweet and innocent symbolism: white doves representing peace, Snow White with her kindness, and the purity of a bride’s dress. You should also know the dark side of white, as it does have one. Let us start with beauty. Throughout centuries white skin was seen as a symbol of status and nobility. It was de rigeur to achieve it in higher classes and looked up on by the lower ones. It had been used in make-up for an extremely long time in a form of paste with lead as its main ingredient. The obsession with beauty turned out to be deadly. The substance was extremely poisonous and could cause eyesight impairment, hair loss and skin laisions. In more severe cases it lead to frequent fevers, paralysis, insanity and eventually death. Funnily enough, people did know about it and kept using it sparcely. Lots of other, completely safe alternatives were produced but people steered away from them as their effect on the skin was far less spectacular. So lead in make-up was used even though it ruined health of hundreds. It is unfortunate that it created a truly vicious circle. It was used to make skin look better but lead made it deteriorate so people had to stick to it and apply even more of the product to fix the damage. A truly dark mark on the spotless history of the white colour.

Nevertheless, it is just one part of the story which undeniably can give goosebumps. Luckily it has a happy ending with modern make-up, which not only nourishes skin, but has also made white colour a symbol of purity and goodness again.


The Secret Lives of Colour by Kassia St Clair

The Story of Colour by Gavin Evans

The Designer’s Dictionary of Colours by Sean Adams

Color. A Natural History of the Palette by Victoria Finlay

The Book of Symbols: Reflections on Archetypal Images by Taschen

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