5-Minute Crafts
5-Minute Crafts

Why Purple Flags Are So Rare

Although we don’t think too much about the symbolism of country flags, we should know that each national flag has a deep meaning, as it conveys the values, moral virtues, and history of its people. Although some colors are used in flags more than others, like red white, blue, green, and yellow, we almost never see purple present in flags.

5-Minute Crafts is here to help you understand why.

The expensive production of purple by the nineteenth century

The main reason why purple is rarely found on national flags has to do with the fact that its production was incredibly expensive up until the mid-nineteenth century. To produce purple back then, you needed to obtain the dye from the sea snails that could be found only in a certain part of the Mediterranean, in the Tyre region, which is part of Lebanon today. Here are some curious facts about the making of purple in those times:

  • More than 10,000 sea snails were required to produce only 1 gram of purple dye.
  • The price of purple was higher than the price of gold of the same weight — it was actually worth around 3 pounds of gold.
  • According to the price edict declared by Roman Emperor Diocletian, a pound of purple dye was so costly that you had to pay the price of around 150,000 denarii, equivalent to $19,000 at the time of writing.

Purple as a sign of nobility

As purple dye could be afforded only by wealthy rulers, it was worn by high circles in the empires of Rome, Persia, and Egypt. It even adopted the meaning of spirituality and holiness. It’s interesting to note that a Roman emperor forbade his wife to purchase a piece of purple clothing, as it was as expensive as its weight in gold.

This color was considered royal to such an extent that even Queen Elizabeth didn’t permit anyone to wear it, but close members of the royal family could.

The mass production of purple

However, for purple to become more widely available, the world required a breakthrough to happen.

In 1856, an English chemist named William Henry Perkin, who was only 18 years old at the time, accidentally generated purple dye while he worked on creating a drug that would help fight malaria. He was quick to patent it and made a fortune. This meant the end of the exclusivity and regality of the color purple.

2 national flags that include purple

Let’s have a look at the country flags that do include the color purple.

  • Nicaragua — we can only see a splash of purple in the rainbow of the Nicaraguan flag, designed in 1907.
  • Dominica — this flag started being used in 1978. You’ll find purple in the representation of the sisserou parrot, the national bird of Dominica, in the center.
5-Minute Crafts/World/Why Purple Flags Are So Rare
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