An Israeli Chemist Discovers Impossible ‘Sky-Blue’ Dye Mentioned in The Bible – Dying fabrics has been one of the oldest traditions in most cultures. In the Old Testament itself, there are mentions of certain colors. So far, red and purple dyes are found to be produced by sea snails. But what about tekhelet, the blue dye that was told to be the color of garment corners in Moses’ era?
• The Dyes
There are three popping colors that are mentioned in the Bible: deep red or purple (kirmizi) and blue (tekhelet). Studies found that they are produced from dyes made from sea snails found in the Mediterranean ocean, Murex brandaris, Thais haemastoma and Murex trunculus.
These three snails are capable to produce colors from deep red, purplish-red, and purplish-blue – colors that are said to be the symbol of the rich, just like casino games used to be but not anymore since offers the best online games. Since it needs a lot of snails and time (equals to a lot of money) to produce the colors vividly.
• Why Blue was An Impossible Color?
So far, the colors mentioned above check the bill for kirmizi rather than tekhelet. So, where’s the blue dye? Well, apparently, there are no natural resources that are capable to produce a brilliant blue dye in the area. So, how can the Bible mention the dye, then?
Firstly, the three snail types mentioned in the first point was discovered by Henri de Lacaze-Duthiers, a French zoologist, on a trip to Spain in 1858. There, he saw a fisherman smeared slimes from a snail to his clothes. First, the stain appeals yellow, but it turned into purple after a while. After some research, Henri de Lacaze-Duthiers then suggested that Murex trunculus maybe the source of tekhelet’s brilliant blue, though he himself didn’t find how to produce the color.
• The Discovery
Fortunately, the blue dye was actually discovered in 1980. A dye chemist, Otto Elsner, discovered the dye by accidentally exposing Murex trunculus’ extract to direct sunlight. To his surprise, the wool wad he dipped into that extract immediately turned from purple to brilliant blue. He concluded that ancient dyers must’ve discovered this as they work under the sun.
Apparently, tekhelet’s dye is not a mystery anymore. Even though it was a mystery for a long time, the color was found in 1980 by Otto Elsner by accident. Turns out, we only need direct sunlight to turn the snail’s purple dye to brilliant blue! These days, you can visit Baruch Sterman’s workshop to see the actual dye and dying process of tekhelet.