Red, just a colour or is there more too it?

Red is the color at the end of the visible spectrum of light, next to orange and opposite violet. It has a dominant wavelength of approximately 625–740 nanometres. Reds range from the brilliant yellow-tinged scarlet and vermillion to bluish-red crimson, and vary in shade from the pale red pink to the dark red burgundy.

Hematite, or iron ore, is the source of the red colour of red ochre.

Red pigment made from ochre was one of the first colours used in prehistoric art. The Ancient Egyptian’s and Mayans coloured their faces red in ceremonies; Roman generals had their bodies coloured red to celebrate victories. It was also an important colour in China, where it was used to colour early pottery and later the gates and walls of palaces.

The mineral cinnabar, the ore of mercury, is the source of the colour vermilion.

In the Renaissance, the brilliant red costumes for the nobility and wealthy were dyed with kermes and cochineal. The 19th century brought the introduction of the first synthetic red dyes, which replaced the traditional dyes. Red also became the colour of revolution; Soviet Russia adopted a red flag following the Bolshevik Revolution in 1917, later followed by China, Vietnam, and other communist countries.

Despite its yellow greenish flower, the roots of the Rubia tinctorum, or madder plant, produced the most common red dye used from ancient times until the 19th century.

Since red is the colour of blood, it has historically been associated with sacrifice, danger and courage. Modern surveys in Europe and the United States show red is also the colour most commonly associated with heat, activity, passion, sexuality, anger, love and joy. In China, India and many other Asian countries it is the colour that symbolises  happiness and good fortune.

Alizarin was the first synthetic red dye, created by German chemists in 1868. It duplicated the colorant in the madder plant, but was cheaper and longer lasting. After its introduction, the production of natural dyes from the madder plant virtually ceased.

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