Purple tends to be a color that people either love or hate. A visit to Berkshire Hathaway Home Services Fox & Roach’s Kennett Square office “Brand Opening” led me to a thought-provoking conversation on the BHHS corporate brand color choice of purple. They all knew the reasoning well as it was conveyed as part of the brand.
Historically, purple is the color of kings and emperors because it was nearly nonexistent in Renaissance and Medieval era due to near extinction of the snail used to make imperial purple. Imperial purple disappeared in 1453.
In pre-historic existence, our ancestors probably never saw a purple fruit, flower, bird, fish – or any living thing. This just added to the expense of creating the color.
The earliest purple dyes date back to about 1900 B.C. It took 12,000 shellfish to extract 1.5 grams of the pure dye to be used on a single garment the size of the Roman toga. This explains why this “regal” color was used primarily for garments of emperors or privileged individuals. Roman emperors Julius Caesar and Augustus both decreed that only the Emperor could wear purple. When Nero became Emperor, the wearing of purple and even the sale of purple was punishable by death!
Purple pigments and dyes are now less costly and complex, yet the purple symbolism of nobility and luxury remains true to most people in the world.
Other cultural symbolism
• “Purple Heart” – the American award for bravery.
• Purple is a symbolic color for the gay community in many Western cultures.
• Purple symbolism is generationally specific. It is the color of “Barney” (children’s TV character) and also of Yahoo.
• In U.K., Italy, Thailand, Brazil purple symbolizes mourning or death.
Visually distinct features of purple
• Purple is the most powerful wavelength of the rainbow.
• and lastly, purple is the hardest color for the eye to discriminate. See this visual illusion.