Mauve (French form of Malva, "mallow") is a pale grayed lavender-lilac color, one of many in the range of purples.


A young student called William Perkin was working at The Royal College of Chemistry in London. He was trying to synthesise the drug, Quinine, from coal tar. The result of his work was a black residue - not what he wanted at all! He was on the point of discarding this residue, but he decided to add liquid to it. The solution that resulted was 'Strangely beautiful' - MAUVE had made its debut! When William Perkin further discovered that this new solution would stain cloth, this entrepreneurial young man took out a patent and contacted a dye-works with his new product.

Whilst the origin of the modern industrial revolution is often traced to the Ironbridge Gorge northwest of Birmingham in the UK, less credit is given to one of the birthplaces of the modern organic chemical industry. William Henry Perkin (1838-1907) who at the age of 18 had set out with idea of making quinine (C20H24N2O2) by oxidising allytoluidine (C10H12N), had accidentally produced instead the first ever synthetic dye (aniline purple, better known as mauveine (actual formula of principal component C26H23N4+X-, X= sulphate, acetate etc). It is worth noting that molecular structure of few compounds were known with certainty at this time, and even that of benzene had only recently been recognised by Kekule.

The coal tar that was his raw material was in plentiful supply, as it was a waste product of the gas lighting in the streets of London. It was available in vast quantities, at very little cost. Perkin and his father built a factory and went into the production of mauve cloth. At this point, another chance of history favoured Perkin. The Empress Eugenie of France had eyes of an unusual colour. She saw the mauve cloth, decided that it matched her eyes, and instantly sparked of a fashion - mauve was a colour every fashionable lady in France must wear! In England, after Queen Victoria was seen wearing mauve at her daughter's wedding in 1858, mauve also became the colour sensation that women of taste had to be seen wearing in England. read more


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