• Colour Expert since 1899
  • 10 Exclusive Brands
  • Let's Empower Creativity

Royal Talens respects the privacy of your information

We use functional cookies to anonymously analyse your use of our website so that you get a flawless and optimized website. Via personalization cookies we can adjust the website to your preferences and behavior.

If you want to know more about which cookies we place or if you want to reset it, go to our cookie page and privacy statement.

Functional cookies ensure that you get an error-free and optimized website.
These cookies are used to tailor advertisements to your interests, both on royaltalens.com and on other websites. They also offer the possibility of making newsletters relevant to you personally.
Social media cookies ensure that you can post comments and share information with your friends and / or your network.
Ultramarine ‘The blue gold’
Colour stories

Ultramarine ‘The blue gold’

Ultramarine is a colour that has appealed to one’s imagination since the early Middle Ages. These days it is impossible to imagine the standard palette without this intense blue with its excellent lightfastness. However, up until 1828 only the natural variant was available. An expensive affair, all the more so since this pigment cost more than pure gold.

Ultramarine ‘The blue gold’

Ultramarine is a colour that has appealed to one’s imagination since the early Middle Ages. These days it is impossible to imagine the standard palette without this intense blue with its excellent lightfastness. However, up until 1828 only the natural variant was available. An expensive affair, all the more so since this pigment cost more than pure gold.

Originally Ultramarine was obtained from the semi-precious stone Lapis Lazuli, literally ‘stone’ (Latin) and ‘blue’ (Persian). An extraordinarily laborious and expensive process, whereby the stones are ground by hand and all the impurities are removed. The best quality Lapis Lazuli was traditionally mined in Afghanistan, where Ultramarine was already being used in, for example, murals in the 6th and 7th centuries.

Expensive pigment

In the beginning of the thirteenth century a method was developed that allowed an even purer pigment to be obtained from the stone. This resulted in a considerable decrease in profit per stone, and an unprecedented increase in price which even exceeded that of pure gold. Nevertheless, artists were so impressed with the colour intensity and lightfastness that the demand only increased. Also in Western Europe, which since the 14th century received ever larger quantities of Lapis Lazuli shipped from overseas. And this in fact is how Ultramarine derived its name, ‘ultra marum’, Latin for ‘beyond the sea’. Due to the high price, however, the pigment was by no means part of artists’ standard range of colours. What’s more, we know that artists such as the Dutch 17th century masters charged their clients for the extra cost of Ultramarine.

Properties

Ultramarine is a blue pigment with ‘traces of red’. Mixed with bluish reds it offers numerous possibilities for creating surprising shades of violet. In addition, Ultramarine is often used as a transparent layer in the glazing technique. If applied thinly on a white ground or by mixing it with a little white paint, the characteristic, intense, clear blue colour is created.

Other Colour stories

Ultramarine

Ultramarine

Colour stories
Magenta

Magenta

Colour stories
Indian Yellow

Indian Yellow

Colour stories
Carmine

Carmine

Colour stories