There is no denying that color can serve to symbolize many things. Orange specifically has a lot of associations in popular culture today. It is color that you can either ‘pull off or not’. It is the color of safety officer vests and the incarcerated alike. It is the color of agent orange used in Vietnam, and the color of some of our favorite (or not so favorite) sport teams. One standing association that rolls around every year in October, is Halloween.
While we could of course find some photos of rock shaped ghosts or pumpkins to share with you today (which if you want to see this goofy stuff, check out our Facebook) we thought we would from a geological context explore the color orange itself. Our human affinity for the color orange long pre dates Halloween and its pagan origins.
Paint, or its color, often comes from minerals that are ground down and mixed with other mediums to develop a specifically desired shade or tone. One of such naturally occurring earth pigments is Ochre, which has been used since pre history to create an orange tinted paint for art, decoration, and beauty.
Ochre contains hydrated iron oxide, ranging in the color palette from yellow, to orange, to brown. The broad term ‘ochre’ includes the shades yellow ochre, red ochre, purple ochre, sienna, and umber. The major ingredient of all of these types of ochre is the hydrated iron oxide itself. Hydrated Iron oxide is one of the most common minerals found on earth, which explains why it has been so widely used across the globe by so many cultures and peoples through history.
Luckily for early humans, ochre is non toxic to organisms, dries quickly, and is incredibly opaque. From the art of the Caves of Lascaux in France, to the tombs of ancient Egypt, to the wall color in ancient Greece, to the war paint of the Picts of Scotland, ochre and its color giving capabilities were firmly established. Ochre is still used as a pigment today using synthetic oxide, labeled as PY-43 in line with the Color Index International system.
We hope you have enjoyed learning a little bit about the color orange and where it comes from! For now, enjoy all that the color orange has to offer this season, from pumpkins, to the changing of the colors, to your favorite rust color sweater. We hope to see you soon!
Thanks for reading.
SBLMS Secretary and Webmaster Jamie Erickson