History of Indigo Color: How It Was Formed?


Indigo is the dark blue dye collected from the indigo plant and it is also the color between blue and violet in the rainbow “the deepest indigo of the horizon.”

Newton’s Mystical Theory of Color Indigo:

It was the theory given by Isaac Newton who discovered that there must be seven (not six) colors. When he was experimenting with prisms and found about the color indigo which has converted into the modern theory of opticks. 

In 1655, when Newton was sent home from school at Cambridge during the bubonic disease and started testing with his prisms. He examined how light moved through the prisms at various angles and produced several colors. And those seven colors that he referred would become the colors of the spectrum or rainbow. 

Newton, during his experiments, had found that light survives in various kinds of wavelengths. The light human’s eye can notice are the wavelengths from the visible light spectrum, and arise from the sun. Newton concluded that even though you only observed white light from the sun, since other colors were already in the world, other colors of light must be as well. By refracting sunlight into a prism, he was able to continue his belief. The prism split the sunlight into its seven shorter wavelengths, enabling us to observe the seven colors that blend to produce white light. From these seven colors came the visible color spectrum and modern rainbow. These experiments are well defined in Newton’s book called Opticks

Indigo, a color exact between blue and violet, is so close to both colors that it is often never identified as indigo. As a consequence, many assume that indigo was never worthy to be its own color. It is a general view that indigo is preferably a variety of blue or violet, and should stay in any of those categories. 

There is also an assumption that Newton only added indigo in his color spectrum in order to have seven colors. This is the outcome of a mysticism belief that you required seven colors for them to be able to blend and form white. Others think Newton only added indigo because he was supporting the age-old pattern of sevens such as the seven days of the week, the seven main planets in our solar system, etc. 

However, as Newton was a famous scientist, many think that he was right in his findings. Theories that help Newton reflect the wavelength of indigo. On the visible color spectrum, each of the seven colors has a particular limit of wavelengths. Indigo’s stays around 425–445nm (nanometers). This is a typically shorter limit than other colors. Red, for instance, stays around 625–740nm, and green stays around 520–565nm. Whereas there are those colors with a longer scale or limit, however, not all are so long. Yellow stays around 565–590nm, which is only a 25nm measure, and 5 off from the 20nm measure of indigo. These details help the belief that Newton likely saw indigo had a long enough wavelength to be regarded as its own color.

Indigo as The Plant and The Dye:

Indigo was actually a plant that gained its name because it originated from the Indus Valley, found some 5,000 years ago, where it was called nila, which means dark blue. And by the 7th Century BC, people started utilizing the plant as a dye, the Mesopotamians were even creating the ingredients for forming indigo dye over clay tablets for record-keeping.

By 1289, news of the dye got its way to Europe, when the Venetian merchant traveler, Marco Polo arrived on it. 

Indigo originates from the species Indigofera, a plant that has over 750 different species. The most common species is Indigofera tinctoria which is real indigo. This is the plant most recognized with being the source of indigo dye. The bright dyes, naturally come from the leaves of the plant, to produce a dye that is a dark blue-violet and has been used in textiles for ages. 

1640 when its demand started, the indigo color was created from two separate kinds of plants, the indigo plant, which provided the most reliable outcomes, and from the woad plant. The British were forming indigo with woad, a plant that produced a lesser degree of dye, but a plant they could grow.

Eliza Lucas Who Discovered to Grow Indigo in South Carolina: 

When America was at conflict against the Spanish Empire in 1740 Eliza Lucas learned how to produce the crop of indigo by numbers of experiments. 

Eliza began to grow the crop of indigo since she recognized the need for the indigo dye was strong from Britain. Despite her struggles, none of the indigo grains produced a successful crop. But Eliza was firm to keep trying, and she finally had successful crops after several trials. She soon realized that she could not sustain demand from the British solely. So, rather keeping her occupation a secret, she shared her knowledge about how to produce the crop of indigo with other farmers. And Indigo promptly became a cash crop, second only to rice, and the farmers started getting good earnings. The market rose from 5,000 pounds in 1746 to 130,000 pounds in 1748. 

Other than that, in America, they continued their love for indigo blue. Americans initiated to make work shirts with indigo blue collars, that indicate less dirt than white collars. 

In 1873, Jacob Davis and Levi Straus applied the blue indigo dye to create their denim jeans in San Francisco by the name of Levi’s.  

Indigo was not just a financial success as a color, but a color that possessed some capabilities to stimulate particular moods or spirits. It is stated that those with an aura of indigo color have exceptional foreknowledge and deep intuitive perception. Duke Ellington even named one of his jazz pieces “Mood Indigo.” Let’s leave it to your creativity to see whether Indigo inspires you or not.