RSC - Advancing the Chemical Sciences



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A model walking along the catwalk
The models foot
A mollusc
It took 12,000 molluscs to produce just enough to dye a single dress the size of a Roman toga. It is no wonder purple was the colour of royal robes and that purple garments labelled the wearer as a wealthy or privileged individual.
A king wearing royal robes
Perkin's discovery of mauveine gave birth to the synthetic dyes industry and revolutionised fashion. This resulted in a dramatic increase in production capacity, therefore, purple cloth became inexpensive to produce and very fashionable.
Booklet commemorating centenary anniversary of discovery of aniline dyes
Perkin also discovered two new dyes, Britannia Violet and Perkin's Green. The discovery set off a race to find more dyes with similar compositions, using aniline as a starting point.
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Dish containing alizarin dye
In 1869, Perkin found a method to commercially produce alizarin, a brilliant red dye.

In 1874, Perkin sold his dyeworks to Brooke, Simpson and Spiller and retired to Sudbury devoting himself to research and work in the local community.
A chart showing a family of colours
The manufacture of synthetic dyes spread rapidly from England to France and Germany, German chemists soon developed whole new "families" of colours and also learned to synthesize such popular natural dyestuffs as indigo and madder.
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Germany came to dominate the dyestuffs industry, the profits from which then allowed them to branch out into pharmaceuticals and explosives.

By 1914 Germany produced about 75% of the world's supply of dyes and dyestuffs.
Queen Victoria in purple royal robes
Queen Victoria contributed to the success of Perkin’s mauveine by wearing it to the wedding of her daughter in 1858. Mauve became highly fashionable in 1862 when Queen Victoria appeared at the Royal Exhibition. The 1890s were sometimes referred to as the Mauve Decade because of the widespread use of that colour in fashion.
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Carol Vorderman modelling modern fashion dress
Empress Eugenie wore mauve to match her unusually coloured eyes. Her mauve gowns set off the ‘mauve madness’ that swept across Europe in the 1860s and America after the Civil War.
The pope wearing purple robes
Purple is also predominate in the wardrobe of the Pope and other members of the Roman Catholic Church.
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A group of ladies from the Red Hat Society wearing red hats
The Red Hat Society celebrates life after 50. When you ‘come of age’ at 50 you are allowed to wear the traditional red hat with purple.
Montage of Jonathon Ross, 
					Dame Edna Everage and Lily Savage wrapped in a purple ribbon
Purple is associated with famous drag queens Dame Edna Everage and Lily Savage.

TV presenter, Jonathon Ross, is famous for his purple suit.

Purple ribbons have been used in many campaigns including:
- Cancer Awareness
- Stop Animal Abuse
- Religious tolerance
- HorseAid
- Help Stop Violence

Technically purple is any group of colours with a hue between deep blue and red. This includes violet, mauve, magenta, indigo and lilac.
Dr Simon Campbell CBE (RSC President 2004-2006) wearing badge of office
The ribbon on the badge of office worn by the President of the Royal Society of Chemistry is dyed with the original dye mauveine.