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The Story of Indigo

 The Origins

Indigo is an historic colour used widely within textile industries around the world. Whilst it's first known use as a fabric dye can be traced back 60000 years to Huaca Prieta in Peru it was also well known to ancient civilisations in the Middle East, Egypt, Britain, South America and West Africa. 

Natural indigo dye is a dark greenish blue colour usually obtained from the leaves of plants native to different areas of the world, Dyers Knotweed in India, Anil in Central and South America, Natal in India and Woad in Europe.

However, it can also be found in mollusks, with the Murex sea snail producing a mixture of indigo and dibromoindigo (red) which together produce a range of purple hues known as Tyrian purple.

 

 

The History

The first major centre of production of indigo was India who went on to supply it to the Greeks and Romans eventually leading to it being awarded its name, derived from the latin for 'indian'. 

Considered by the Greeks and Romans to be a luxury and used for centuries by many Asian countries to dye silk, clothes dyed with indigo were often considered a signifier of wealth. 

During the Edo period in Japan, however, when commoners were banned from wearing silk and, as a result, cotton became popular, Indigo gained even greater importance because it was one of the few substances that would dye cotton.

 

 

 

 

 Indigo remained a rare commodity in Europe throughout the Middle Ages but with the establishment of the Silk Road, the importation and demand for indigo in Europe rose significantly and plantations were established by European powers in colonies in Central & South America, Haiti, Jamaica and the Virgin Islands. 

In North America, indigo was was introduced into South Carolina, where it became the colony's second-most important crop after rice and because of its high value as a trading commodity, was often referred to as blue gold. 

  

 

 

Our plain cotton apron in 'Indigo'. Click here to view

Indigo Today

The low concentration of natural indigo in plants makes them difficult to work with, and the colour of the dye can be easily tainted by other substances present, often leading to a greenish tinge. As a result, the synthetic production of indigo has been attempted since the 1880's with the first commerically practical method developed in 1901. Variations of this method are still used today and the majority of indigo dyes used around the world are now produced synthetically.

 

 

Our Iba Plates, Bowls & Platters in Indigo. Click here to view