Purple dye was obtained from shellfish or mollusks such as the Murex trunculus (left) and the Murex brandaris (right) shown here. The shells measure from 5 to 8 cm (2 to 3 in.) in length. In the neck of the flesh of these creatures is a small gland containing only a single drop of fluid, called the flower. This fluid initially has the appearance and consistency of cream, but on exposure to air and light, it gradually changes to a deep violet or reddish-purple color. These shellfish are found along the shores of the Mediterranean Sea, and the shades of color acquired from them vary according to their location. The larger specimens were broken open individually, and the precious fluid was carefully removed, whereas the smaller ones were crushed in mortars. The amount of fluid acquired from each shellfish was small, so accumulating a large amount was a costly process. Hence, this dye was expensive, and garments dyed purple became the mark of wealthy people or those in high station.—Es 8:15.
Courtesy of SDC Colour Experience (www.sdc.org.uk)