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What is the color code for imperial purple?

What is the color code for imperial purple?

Imperial purple is a rich, deep shade of purple that was historically associated with royalty and nobility. Though different cultures have had their own versions of imperial purple over time, the most iconic imperial purple hue comes from the ancient Phoenician city of Tyre, which was famous for producing a highly prized purple dye. This Tyrian purple, as it was known, became a status symbol in the ancient world and was reserved for only the most elite members of society.

The History of Tyrian Purple

Tyrian purple dye originated in the Phoenician city of Tyre, located in modern-day Lebanon. Tyre was an important trade hub in antiquity and had access to the species of sea snail known as Murex, from which the dye was extracted. According to the Roman historian Pliny the Elder, the Phoenicians discovered Tyrian purple dye by accident when a dog chewed on some snails on the beach near Tyre and its mouth turned purple.

The Phoenicians quickly realized the potential value of mass-producing this dye and began harvesting large quantities of the Murex snails to extract the purple pigment. Producing the dye involved an elaborate, time-consuming process. The snail shells were broken, and the glands containing the precious purple pigment were removed. It took thousands of snails to yield just a small amount of dye, which is why Tyrian purple was so prohibitively expensive.

The Significance of Tyrian Purple in the Ancient World

Because it was so difficult to produce in large quantities, Tyrian purple soon became associated with luxury and prestige in the ancient Mediterranean world. In 9th century BCE Phoenicia, only the royal family was permitted to wear Tyrian purple. The dye signaled elite social status not just in Phoenicia, but later on in Ancient Greece, Carthage, and Rome as well. Roman emperors and senators wore special purple-striped togas to denote their rank and authority. By the 4th century BCE, Tyrian purple was considered one of the most valuable commodities in the Mediterranean.

Interestingly, the name “Phoenician purple” comes from the Greek word phoinix, meaning “blood red.” When exposed to sunlight, Tyrian purple would transform from a reddish-purple to a deeper, richer purple hue. This photo-sensitivity added to its allure and exclusivity.

The Signature Color of Imperial Purple

So what color exactly was Tyrian or imperial purple? Modern color analysis has determined that it was a vibrant, rich reddish-purple, leaning slightly more towards red than blue on the color spectrum. Similar dyes have been recreated using the same Murex sea snails. When woven into fabrics like wool or silk, these dyes produce a luxurious purple-red hue, however it tends to fade over time into more of a solid purple.

The Pantone color matching system has a color called “Tyrian Purple” (Pantone 19-3415 TPX) that is meant to re-create the look of the ancient dye. Pantone describes Tyrian Purple as a “rich, regal purple.” On the RGB color model, the equivalent values for Tyrian Purple are 102/2/60.

Imperial Purple in Modern Times

Though it originated in the ancient world, imperial purple continues to carry regal associations in modern times. Murex-dyed fabric swatches known as the “Purple of Pompeii” were discovered in ruins from Pompeii dating back to the 1st century CE. These ancient samples served as a model when imperial purple was officially adopted by British royals in the early 19th century.

Use in British Royalty

In 1830, Queen Victoria declared imperial purple and scarlet to be the official colors of the British monarch. These purple and red hues were incorporated into royal robes, coronation gowns, and other regalia to project luxury and status. Imperial purple velvet became part of the royal tradition along with gold trim and ermine fur.

The British aristocracy also adopted imperial purple, with purple sashes denoting earls and imperial purple robes worn by some duchesses. Deep purple remains closely associated with British royalty and nobility to this day.

Use in Catholic Clergy

Imperial purple fabric has also been incorporated into the vestments of Catholic Bishops and Cardinals for centuries. The deep color symbolizes piety and penitence. Catholic clergy at various levels wear cassocks and sashes in different imperial purple shades and hues. The pomp and circumstance of major Catholic masses, rites, and ceremonies invariably include touches of rich, vivid purple vestments and regalia, evoking ancient traditions of imperial purple.

How to Create Imperial Purple Fashion and Decor

Though not strictly limited to nobility anymore, imperial purple retains an aura of luxury, royalty, and ambition. Fashion designers, interior decorators, and other creatives have various ways to incorporate this rich hue into contemporary styles and aesthetics. Here are some tips for using imperial purple effectively:

In Fashion

– Imperial purple makes a striking color for dresses, gowns, or women’s blouses, especially in satin or chiffon.

– Deep purple heels, handbags, or jewelry add a touch of regal flair.

– Men can incorporate imperial purple into a shirt, tie, or pocket square for a modern twist on a power color.

– For accessories, purple hats, scarves, and gloves evoke an aristocratic style.

In Interior Decor

– Use imperial purple in accent pieces like throw pillows, area rugs, or curtains.

– Repaint one wall in a rich purple hue to create a dramatic focal point.

– Add purple artwork, floral arrangements, or table decor for pops of color.

– Upholster chairs or sofas in purple velvet or linen for ornate flair.

– Illuminate spaces with purple-hued lamps, candles, or lighting fixtures.

DIY Craft Projects

– Make purple handmade soaps, candles, or jewelry to give as gifts.

– Blend purple into homemade floral arrangements and wreaths.

– Upcycle thrifted items by spray-painting them metallic purple.

The vibrant, regal nature of imperial purple makes it perfectly suited for any project where you want to add a touch of luxury. With creativity, you can weave this ancient color into modern looks that feel bold, elegant, and inspired.


Imperial purple has an illustrious history dating back to the ancient Phoenician empire, where it symbolized privilege and status. The hue originated with Tyrian purple dye derived from Mediterranean sea snails, which was so coveted it became one of the most valuable trade commodities in antiquity. Though labor-intensive to produce, Tyrian purple graced the robes of emperors and kings for centuries and remains linked to royalty today. With its rich, reddish-purple tones, imperial purple retains a spirit of ambition, nobility, and grandeur. From high fashion to interior design, this vivid hue adds a touch of timeless regality to any space or wardrobe.

Color Name HEX Code RGB Code
Tyrian Purple #66023C 102/2/60
Imperial Purple #732146 115/33/70
Royal Purple #7851A9 120/81/169