Symbolic Meaning of the Color Blue

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Blue: a rare color in nature and the favorite of many people around the world. It’s one of the three primary colors, used for many purposes including textiles, jewelry, art and decoration. But interestingly, for much of recorded history, blue remained an unimportant color, difficult to obtain and rarely used. Today, it’s the most popular color in the world.

Here’s a quick peek at the history of the color blue, what it signifies and how it’s used today.

The History of the Color Blue

Blue Santorini
Natural and Painted Blues in Santorini, Greece

If you ask someone what their favorite color is, chances are they’ll say blue. While we do have large expanses of blue in the sky and the seas, blue objects in nature are quite rare. As a result, blue pigments were rare and made blue a difficult color to obtain for early people.

  • Blue in the Ancient World

The color blue has been of great importance in art and decoration since the ancient times, but it actually came into use much later than the other primary colors. There are many cave paintings dating from the Paleolithic period, created using colors such as blacks, reds, ochres and browns but blue is nowhere to be seen.

Although the other colors including purple and pink were used for dyeing fabric in the ancient items, blue was not used. It’s likely that the color wasn’t in use because of how difficult it was to create good quality pigments and dyes. The earliest blue dyes (around 6000 years ago) were made using plants. Some pigments were made from certain minerals like lapis lazui or azurite.

In Afghanistan, the semi-precious stone Lapis Lazuli had been extensively mined for over 3000 years and exported to many countries around the globe. The Iranians and Mesopotamians put this stone to good use by making vessels and jewelry from it. In Greece, the color was so unimportant that there wasn’t even a name for it.

  • Blue in Egypt
Blue in Egypt
Blue pigment was used in Tutankhamun’s Funeral Mask

The Egyptians used lapis lazuli on the funeral mask of the Pharaoh Tutankhamun. Later on, they began to produce their own blue pigment by grinding together silica, lime, alkalai and copper and heating it up to about 900oC. The pigment was known as Egyptian blue and is considered the first synthetic pigment. It was then that the Egyptian word for ‘blue’ first emerged.

Egyptian blue was used widely for various purposes including painting wood, canvas and papyrus and later on in pottery and the making of figurines. Gradually, Egyptian blue dyes began to spread throughout the world to Rome, Mesoamerica and Persia. These dyes were so expensive that only royalty were able to afford them and blue remained a rare color for many centuries.

  • Blue in Ancient Rome

In Rome blue was the color of the garments worn by the working class whereas the nobility wore white, red, black or violet. However, they used blue extensively for decorating and made the dye from indigo mixed with the imported Egyptian blue pigment. In Pompeii, the walls of Roman villas had beautiful blue skies painted on them and the pigments were available in the shops of merchants who sold colors.

  • Blue in the Middle Ages

During the Middle Ages, blue was seen as a very insignificant color, especially in Europe. The wealthy and noble wore purple or red and it was only the poor who wore blue clothing, colored with low-quality dyes made from woad plants. However, this changed later on between 1130 and 1140 when a French abbot rebuilt the St. Denis Basilica in Paris and had stained glass installed in the windows, colored cobalt. This gave the building a special look since the light shining through the red glass combined with the cobalt and filled the church with a heavenly bluish-violet light. From then on, the color was known as ‘bleu de Saint-Dennis’ and blue stained glass was being installed in the windows of many other churches.

  • Blue in Modern Times

Today, blue is the most popular color in the world, adored by many people, just like it was by the ancient Egyptians. It’s widely used in fashion and interior design and there are hundreds of different shades to choose from.

What Does the Color Blue Symbolize?

Girl wearing blue dress

Although blue wasn’t a significant color in ancient times, the tables turned along the way. Let’s take a look at the symbolism of the color and its significance.

Blue symbolizes piety. The color blue is used to symbolize sincerity and piety in heraldry. It’s a significant color in many cultures that’s believed to keep away bad spirits and bring peace.

Blue represents space. Since it’s the color of the sea and the sky, it’s associated with open spaces as well as imagination, sensitivity, stability, confidence and expansiveness.

Blue symbolises quiet confidence. It also communicates confidence, importance and significance, without creating any sinister or somber feelings.

Blue represents health. Blue is so often used by healthcare organizations and is the color of the uniform worn by most healthcare professionals. The logos of health organizations such as WHO and CDC also have blue in them which is why this color is strongly associated with the field of medicine.

Blue is the color of authority. Used as the main color for corporate suits and the uniforms of fire fighters and police officers, blue is considered a color of authority, confidence, intelligence, unity, stability and conservation.

Blue is a masculine color. Blue is a masculine color and is used to identify masculinity. A male baby is often dressed in shades of blue. Men typically wear blue suits and blue clothing in general.

Blue is authoritative.  Certain shades of blue are associated with power and authority, most notably navy blue. Many military and police uniforms feature navy blue, which has caused the color to be associated with the idea of seriousness and authority. Therefore, there are different shades of blue, like Robin’s egg blue and pale blue, which were developed to express the original subdued, peaceful meaning of the color.

Blue is protection. Blue is also said to be the color of protection which is why it’s commonly seen in blue eye amulet like the nazar boncugu which are used to ward off the evil eye.

Blue is depressive. We sometimes associate blue with depression and feelings of sadness and gloom.

Negative and Positive Aspects of the Color Blue

Blue sky

Blue has both positive and negative aspects, like any other color.

The color blue is known to reduce stress and creates a sense of relaxation, calmness and order by invoking rest and causing the body to produce certain chemicals which have the ability to exude tranquil feelings. The color also gives a sense of freedom.

Blue is also considered quite beneficial to the body and mind since it’s known to slow down the metabolism, thus producing a calming effect. It’s a ‘cool’ color and is also found to have anti suppressant effects. This is why the color is usually avoided in cooking.  You may not have noticed but we rarely see ‘blue food’. And in the event that you do, it’s possible that you might not want to eat it.

However, while the color has many positive effects there are some shades and variations of it that actually have negative effects as well. Some blues can be too dynamic and using too much of the color can dampen one’s spirits and come across as uncaring or cold. Blue is also associated with depression and a general feeling of low spirits, hence the term feeling blue.

What the Color Blue Means in Different Cultures

In some culture the color blue has negative connotations whereas in others it’s quite the opposite. Here’s what this color means in different cultures worldwide.

  • In Europe and North America, blue is associated with trust, authority and security and is considered to be a peaceful and soothing color. But, it also represents depression, sadness and loneliness hence the phrase ‘having the blues’.
  • In Ukraine, the color blue is symbolic of good health. The color is present on the national flag as well where it represents the sky and a state of calm.
  • In Hinduism, there’s a strong association between the color blue and Lord Krishna. He is said to be the embodiment of divine joy and love and is depicted with bluish skin. It’s believed that the color of Krishna’s skin isn’t the actual color but a blue aura emitted by the spiritual and eternal body of the god.
  • The blue and white colors on the flag of Greece represent the seas that surround Greece with blue water and the wave crests which are white.
  • In Africa, blue symbolizes love, togetherness, peace and harmony.

Personality Color Blue – What It Means

Man wearing blue suit

If blue is your favourite color, it may mean that you have a ‘color blue personality’ and this can say a lot about you. You’ll probably find that some of the following character traits suit you perfectly. Of course, it’s unlikely that you would exhibit all the following character traits listed here but you’re sure to come across some of them that are totally you.

  • If your favourite color’s blue, then you’re most likely someone who’s conservative, trustworthy and reliable.
  • You’re a sincere and genuine person who takes responsibility very seriously.
  • You’re not a spontaneous or impulsive person and you think carefully before you speak and act. You also need time and space to process your feelings and be able to share them.
  • You have a serious need to be trusted by others and although you can be a bit wary at first, once you’re sure about another person you find it easy to trust them.
  • You seem to be a self-controlled and confident person on the outside but on the inside you might be hiding a more vulnerable side of you.
  • Having blue as your favourite color means that you’re usually an even-tempered person unless you let your emotions take over. Then, you can get overly emotion, indifferent and moody.
  • Being a personality color blue means that you prefer to watch in the background than draw the spotlight to yourself.
  • You’re someone who’d make a faithful and loyal marriage partner and you’re a very honest and trustworthy friend.
  • You tend to be overly cautious and worry about each and everything.

The Use of Blue in Fashion and Jewelry

blue wedding dress

Blue is now an extremely popular color used for jewelry and clothing items. However, most shades of blue tend to suit cool skin tones the best. For those with tan or dark skin, certain shades of blue may not look as flattering as they would for those with pale or fair skin.

In terms of clothing, blue jeans are a staple in almost every person’s wardrobe. Calling your pair of denims ‘blue jeans’ or ‘blue denims’ is nearly redundant since blue is the chosen color for all denim. This is because the chemical properties of the dye make it stick for longer.

A touch of blue to your outfit can give you a professional and authoritative look and the confidence to go about your day. But you can certainly have too much blue so it’s a good idea not to go overboard with it.

Navy blue is a classic and sleek shade of blue that looks great with almost any color and suits almost any skin tone, so you’ll find it’s so easy to wear and match with the rest of your outfit.

In general, when it comes to blue, balancing the color with other complementary colors is the best way to go.

Blue makes excellent jewelry because of the unique look that it gives. It’s one of the most popular colors for engagement ring stones, especially after Princess Diana’s famous blue sapphire engagement ring which highlighted the beauty of these stones.

Blue sapphire ring

If you’re looking for a blue gemstone for your ring or jewelry, here’s a list of the most popular blue gemstones:

  • Blue sapphire – the most popular blue gemstone, high quality blue sapphires are extremely costly. These gemstones contain titanium and iron and get their color from certain trace elements. They were the gemstone of choice among the ancient Persians who loved them and believed that the Earth was created on the top of a large blue sapphire.
  • Blue diamond – an extremely rare and expensive gemstone, blue diamond owes its natural color due to the boron impurities present in them. It’s a unique stone with great value and is coveted by many, but unfortunately, most of us can’t afford a natural blue diamond.
  • Blue tanzanite –blue tanzanite is a rare yet affordable gemstone, discovered in 1967. Its uniqueness is due to its blue/violet color. It makes for an excellent substitute for blue sapphire but is somewhat softer.
  • Blue topaz – the birthstone of December, blue topaz is believed to promote a calm mind and excellent health. It also represents eternal faithfulness and love. Most blue topaz on the market is dyed to obtain the color.
  • Aquamarine – the name of this stone means ‘sea water’, a reference to its clear, crystal blue appearance. It’s the official birthstone of March and is also the stone of Scorpio, the zodiac sign as well as 19th wedding anniversaries.

In Brief

Cool and versatile, blue is an attractive color that looks great on most people. While the symbolism of the color can vary according to culture or religion, it remains a fashionable, soothing color that continues to be a favorite among many people.

To learn more about color symbolism, check out our related articles:

Symbolic Meaning of Red

Symbolic Meaning of Black

Symbolic Meaning of Green

Symbolic Meaning of Purple

Symbolic Meaning of Pink

Symbolic Meaning of White

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