Kermes (dye)

Kermes is a red dye derived from the dried bodies of the females of a scale insect in the genus Kermes, primarily Kermes vermilio. The Kermes insects are native in the Mediterranean region and live on the sap of the Kermes oak. They were used as a red dye by the ancient Greeks and Romans. The kermes dye is a rich red, a crimson. It has good colour fastness in silk and wool. It was much esteemed in the medieval era for dyeing silk and wool, particularly scarlet cloth. Post-medievally it was replaced by other red dyes, starting with cochineal.

Weltliche Schatzkammer Wienc
The Coronation Mantle of Roger II of Sicily, silk dyed with kermes and embroidered with gold thread and pearls. Royal Workshop, Palermo, Sicily, 1133–34. Kunsthistorisches Museum, Vienna.


Kermes dye is of ancient origin; jars of kermes have been found in a Neolithic cave-burial at Adaouste, northeast of Aix-en-Provence.[1]

In the Middle Ages, rich crimson and scarlet silks dyed with kermes in the new silk-weaving centers of Italy and Sicily exceeded the legendary Tyrian purple "in status and desirability".[2] The dyestuff was called "grain" in all Western European languages because the desiccated eggs resembled fine grains of wheat or sand,[3] and textiles dyed with kermes were described as dyed in the grain.[4] Woollens were frequently dyed blue with woad before spinning and weaving, and then piece-dyed in kermes, producing a wide range colours from blacks and grays through browns, murreys, purples, and sanguines.[4] By the 14th and early 15th century, brilliant full grain pure kermes scarlet was "by far the most esteemed, most regal" colour for luxury woollen textiles in the Low Countries, England, France, Spain and Italy.[3]

Following the Spanish conquest of the Aztec Empire, Mexican cochineal, which produced a stronger dye and could thus be used in smaller quantities, replaced kermes dyes in general use in Europe.[5][6]

See also


  1. ^ Barber (1991), pp. 230–231
  2. ^ Schoeser (2007), p. 118
  3. ^ a b Munro, John H. "The Anti-Red Shift – To the Dark Side: Colour Changes in Flemish Luxury Woollens, 1300–1500". In Netherton & Owens-Crocker (2007), pp. 56–57.
  4. ^ a b Munro, John H. "Medieval Woollens: Textiles, Technology, and Organisation". In Jenkins (2003), pp. 214–215.
  5. ^ Schoeser (2007), pp. 121, 248
  6. ^ Barber (1982), p. 55.

External links

  • Media related to Kermes (dye) at Wikimedia Commons
  • The torah process of curing tzoraath; using tolaath shani תולעת שני, the Kermes dye (


  • Barber, E. J. W. (1991). Prehistoric Textiles. Princeton University Press. ISBN 0-691-00224-X.
  • Goodwin, Jill (1982). A Dyer's Manual. Pelham. ISBN 0-7207-1327-7.
  • Jenkins, David, ed. (2003). The Cambridge History of Western Textiles. Cambridge University Press. ISBN 0521341078.
  • Netherton, Robin, and Gale R. Owen-Crocker, eds. (2007). Medieval Clothing and Textiles. 3. Boydell Press. ISBN 978-1-84383-291-1.CS1 maint: Uses editors parameter (link)
  • Schoeser, Mary (2007). Silk. Yale University Press. ISBN 0-300-11741-8.

Crimson is a strong, red color, inclining to purple. It originally meant the color of the kermes dye produced from a scale insect, Kermes vermilio, but the name is now sometimes also used as a generic term for slightly bluish-red colors that are between red and rose.

Hallstatt culture

The Hallstatt culture was the predominant Western and Central European culture of Late Bronze Age (Hallstatt A, Hallstatt B) from the 12th to 8th centuries BC and Early Iron Age Europe (Hallstatt C, Hallstatt D) from the 8th to 6th centuries BC, developing out of the Urnfield culture of the 12th century BC (Late Bronze Age) and followed in much of its area by the La Tène culture. It is commonly associated with Proto-Celtic and Celtic populations in the Western Hallstatt zone and with (pre-)Illyrians in the eastern Hallstatt zone.It is named for its type site, Hallstatt, a lakeside village in the Austrian Salzkammergut southeast of Salzburg, where there was a rich salt mine, and some 1,300 burials are known, many with fine artefacts. Material from Hallstatt has been classed into 4 periods, numbered "Hallstatt A" to "D". Hallstatt A and B are regarded as Late Bronze Age and the terms used for wider areas, such as "Hallstatt culture", or "period", "style" and so on, relate to the Iron Age Hallstatt C and D.

By the 6th century BC, it had expanded to include wide territories, falling into two zones, east and west, between them covering much of western and central Europe down to the Alps, and extending into northern Italy. Parts of Britain and Iberia are included in the ultimate expansion of the culture.

The culture was based on farming, but metal-working was considerably advanced, and by the end of the period long-range trade within the area and with Mediterranean cultures was economically significant. Social distinctions became increasingly important, with emerging elite classes of chieftains and warriors, and perhaps those with other skills. Society was organized on a tribal basis, though very little is known about this. Only a few of the largest settlements, like Heuneburg in the south of Germany, were towns rather than villages by modern standards.

Human interactions with insects

Human interactions with insects include both a wide variety of uses, whether practical such as for food, textiles, and dyestuffs, or symbolic, as in art, music, and literature, and negative interactions including serious damage to crops and extensive efforts to eliminate insect pests.

Academically, the interaction of insects and society has been treated in part as cultural entomology, dealing mostly with "advanced" societies, and in part as ethnoentomology, dealing mostly with "primitive" societies, though the distinction is weak and not based on theory. Both academic disciplines explore the parallels, connections and influence of insects on human populations, and vice versa. They are rooted in anthropology and natural history, as well as entomology, the study of insects. Other cultural uses of insects, such as biomimicry, do not necessarily lie within these academic disciplines.

More generally, people make a wide range of uses of insects, both practical and symbolic. On the other hand, attitudes to insects are often negative, and extensive efforts are made to kill them. The widespread use of insecticides has failed to exterminate any insect pest, but has caused resistance to commonly-used chemicals in a thousand insect species.

Practical uses include as food, in medicine, for the valuable textile silk, for dyestuffs such as carmine, in science, where the fruit fly is an important model organism in genetics, and in warfare, where insects were successfully used in the Second World War to spread disease in enemy populations. One insect, the honey bee, provides honey, pollen, royal jelly, propolis and an anti-inflammatory peptide, melittin; its larvae too are eaten in some societies. Medical uses of insects include maggot therapy for wound debridement. Over a thousand protein families have been identified in the saliva of blood-feeding insects; these may provide useful drugs such as anticoagulants, vasodilators, antihistamines and anaesthetics.

Symbolic uses include roles in art, in music (with many songs featuring insects), in film, in literature, in religion, and in mythology. Insect costumes are used in theatrical productions and worn for parties and carnivals.


Kermes may refer to :

Kermes (genus), a genus of insects

Kermes (dye), a red dye made from the bodies of Kermes insects

Kermes oak also called Quercus coccifera, the tree on which the Kermes insects traditionally fed

Alchermes, a confectionery remedy coloured red

Kermesite, the mineral antimony oxysulfide (Sb2S2O), also known as red antimony

Kermes mineral, an older term for an imprecise compound of antimony oxides and sulfides

Simone Kermes, a German soprano best known for her work in the virtuoso Baroque and Classical repertoire

Kermesse (festival)

Kermes mineral

Kermes mineral or Alkermes mineral was a compound of antimony oxides and sulfides, more specifically, antimony trioxide and trisulfide. It can be made or obtained in the laboratory by the actions of potassium carbonate (K2CO3) on antimony sulfide. The compound is reddish brown in color and described as a velvety powder which is insoluble in water. It was used extensively in the medical field until the general use of antimony compounds declined due to toxic effects.


Kermesite or antimony oxysulfide is also known as red antimony (Sb2S2O) . The mineral's color ranges from cherry red to a dark red to a black. Kermesite is the result of partial oxidation between stibnite (Sb2S3) and other antimony oxides such as valentinite (Sb2O3) or stibiconite (Sb3O6(OH)). Under certain conditions with oxygenated fluids the transformation of all sulfur to oxygen would occur but kermesite occurs when that transformation is halted.

List of English words of Arabic origin (K-M)

The following English words have been acquired either directly from Arabic or else indirectly by passing from Arabic into other languages and then into English. Most entered one or more of the Romance languages before entering English.

To qualify for this list, a word must be reported in etymology dictionaries as having descended from Arabic. A handful of dictionaries has been used as the source for the list. Words associated with the Islamic religion are omitted; for Islamic words, see Glossary of Islam. Rare and archaic words are also omitted. A bigger listing including many words very rarely seen in English is available at Wiktionary dictionary.


Purple is a color intermediate between blue and red. It is similar to violet, but unlike violet, which is a spectral color with its own wavelength on the visible spectrum of light, purple is a secondary color made by combining red and blue. The complementary color of purple in the RYB color model is yellow.According to surveys in Europe and North America, purple is the color most often associated with rarity, royalty, magic, mystery, and piety. When combined with pink, it is associated with eroticism, femininity, and seduction.Purple was the color worn by Roman magistrates; it became the imperial color worn by the rulers of the Byzantine Empire and the Holy Roman Empire, and later by Roman Catholic bishops. Similarly in Japan, the color is traditionally associated with the emperor and aristocracy.


Red is the color at the end of the visible spectrum of light, next to orange and opposite violet. It has a dominant wavelength of approximately 625–740 nanometres. It is a primary color in the RGB color model and the CMYK color model, and is the complementary color of cyan. Reds range from the brilliant yellow-tinged scarlet and vermillion to bluish-red crimson, and vary in shade from the pale red pink to the dark red burgundy. The red sky at sunset results from Rayleigh scattering, while the red color of the Grand Canyon and other geological features is caused by hematite or red ochre, both forms of iron oxide. Iron oxide also gives the red color to the planet Mars. The red color of blood comes from protein hemoglobin, while ripe strawberries, red apples and reddish autumn leaves are colored by anthocyanins.Red pigment made from ochre was one of the first colors used in prehistoric art. The Ancient Egyptians and Mayans colored their faces red in ceremonies; Roman generals had their bodies colored red to celebrate victories. It was also an important color in China, where it was used to color early pottery and later the gates and walls of palaces. In the Renaissance, the brilliant red costumes for the nobility and wealthy were dyed with kermes and cochineal. The 19th century brought the introduction of the first synthetic red dyes, which replaced the traditional dyes. Red also became the color of revolution; Soviet Russia adopted a red flag following the Bolshevik Revolution in 1917, later followed by China, Vietnam, and other communist countries.

Since red is the color of blood, it has historically been associated with sacrifice, danger and courage. Modern surveys in Europe and the United States show red is also the color most commonly associated with heat, activity, passion, sexuality, anger, love and joy. In China, India and many other Asian countries it is the color of symbolizing happiness and good fortune.

Types of dyes
Traditional textile dyes
Craft dyes
of insects
in culture


This page is based on a Wikipedia article written by authors (here).
Text is available under the CC BY-SA 3.0 license; additional terms may apply.
Images, videos and audio are available under their respective licenses.