In 1704 a Prussian chemist named Diesbach had an accident. While attempting to develop a new red pigment Diesbach somehow managed to get animal blood mixed up in his potash supply. History is silent about how exactly this enterprising chemist managed this happy accident but the result turned the world of pigments and color upside down.

The accidental mixture did not produce a new red pigment as one might expect but instead produced a dark red hued blue. Chemists, Dye Makers, Artists, and Designers were all quick to realize that this new pigment not only had a wonderful shade but was also resistant to fading, and cheap to produce. Since the knowledge of the production of Egyptian blue had been lost for centuries those in the color industry relied on lapis lazuli for the production of blue shades. Lapis lazuli was difficult to obtain and would fade after a short period of time.

Sale of the new pigment began in 1709 under the trade name, Prussian Blue, and quickly became a standard. Prussian Blue is ubiquitous in the world around us today and appears in places you might not even expect. If you have ever seen a blueprint, that blue that the print is named after is Prussian Blue. Japanese wood carvers were huge fans of the color and many of the iconic wood carvings of waves are composed almost completely of Prussian Blue. Pablo Picasso used Prussian Blue exclusively during his “blue period”. Despite all these iconic art and design uses of Prussian Blue it is also a vital life saving compound and is used in a pill form to counteract the effects of metal poisoning.

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