Indigo – a deep kind of blue

It has been called “universal”, “mysterious”, “capricious” or simply “beautiful”.

Added to the rainbow between blue and violet by Isaac Newton - indigo is much more than a colour. The history of indigo takes us on an exciting voyage – from daily and ceremonial usage in many countries to blue collar garments and denim jeans. Indigo has its own prominent place in art history and was a key reason for early trade wars between the Orient and the West. Indigo even has its own music – see “Mood Indigo” by Duke Ellington.

Where does the word Indigo come from?

In Sanskrit the word “Nila” described a dark blue. This word spread by early trading routes to South East Asia and to the Middle East. The word “nil” came to Europe with the conquests of the Arabs and was further transformed and exported to South America by the Spanish and Portuguese who called it “añil” and “anilera”.

The word indigo was first used by the Greek who called it “indikon”, referring to its Indian origin. The Romans called it “indicum”. In Europe, until the 17th century the word indigo co-existed with the words neel/anyle. Indigo was the basis for the first dyestuff to be synthesized in 1826. The word for the compound used was “aniline” and on this way the Sanskrit word survived into modern days. (Jenny Balfour-Paul, Indigo – Egyptian Mummies to Blue Jeans 2011).

Indigo tanned leather

Which plants can be used for the Indigo dye?

Indigo is truly universal in its composition. The source of the indigo dye “indican” can be obtained from plants found all over the world. To give some examples, indigofera from India, Africa or Central America, Polygonum tinctorium from Japan or woad from Europe.

Indigo is known as the most colourfast of all natural dyes and it can display a vast range of different nuances, from light blue to deep purple. In the past many garments were dyed at home however due to its capricious behavior, Indigo needed – and still needs - specialist knowledge.

Natural NuanceTM was born with the idea of continuing this tradition by offering indigo-coloured leather accessoires, amongst other vegetable leather colours. Indigo allows us to offer a truly unique range of products.

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