Updated: May 31, 2022
History of Hues: Spruce Green
Green symbolizes many things. It is a color of hope, nature, and freshness. Spring and new beginnings are associated with green, communicating harmony and calmness. Additionally, the color invokes safety, like in a traffic light.
A personal favorite green color association is with fairies, leprechauns, and dragons. While it’s a whimsical color, its many shades can also provide a more grounded feeling in the world around us.
The Beginning of Green
In the Middle Ages and the Renaissance, social rank and profession were indicated by the colors of clothing that you were able to wear. Reds and purples could only be worn by nobility., and peasants were limited to browns and grey. Green was the color for the merchant class, encompassing merchants, bankers, gentry, and their families. The Arnolfini Portrait (1434) by Jan van Eyck is one of the most recognizable artworks from the time and features the bride in a deep green gown.
As most of us learned at a young age, yellow and blue are combined to make green. The yellow used during the Middle Ages and Renaissance was a plant called weld (dyer’s rocket) and the blue was from dyer’s balls of woad that are made by crushing the woad leaves to a pulp between rollers and draining off any excess liquid. They are combined with an alkaline, which at that time period was normally stale urine. Because green is a combination of two dyes, the process took longer and was, therefore, more expensive. The deeper and richer the green meant the process was repeated multiple times, again raising the cost of the fabric to be affordable for the merchant class.
Dyer's Rocket (left), Woad Ball (right)
The Death of Green
During the Victorian age, women loved green. In 1814, a company in Germany called the Wilhelm Dye and White Lead Company developed a new green dye, which was chemical and brighter than its natural predecessors. This was the period that gas light was becoming more popular causing ballrooms and dining rooms to be much brighter than they had been. Wanting to stand out, women flocked to gowns in bold shades of green. The problem was that arsenic is what made the dye so striking.
Exposure to arsenic is deadly, and if it didn’t kill the wearer, it caused ulcers and sores any place the fabric had contact with the skin. In the 1850s doctors and reporters were speaking of the slow poisoning of people who wore green or used it for carpeting or upholstery in their homes.
In 1871, there was a report of a woman who was horrified that after purchasing gloves from a fashion house her hands broke out in blister, but the obsession with the color caused people to overlook the danger. Many consumers felt they would be ok as long as they didn’t lick the fabric. It took until 1895 for regulations to be put into place to stop the creation of green dyes with arsenic.
Luckily, there are many options available for safe synthetic green dyes today.
Green in your home
Incorporating Spruce Green into your home will add to its feelings of warmth, welcome, and calm. This is a great color for all rooms. Combining colors that are found in nature always works well. Spruce Green added to rooms that have a lot of grey and cream can evoke a coastal feeling. Neutral, blue, and grey rooms with Spruce Green curtains will make you feel like you are living outside in nature. If you are looking for something a bit more unusual, accent the room with Spruce Green curtains with lavender or ginger decorative accessories like pillows, candles, or wall art.