A natural, golden yellow colorant obtained from the flower stigmas of the Crocus sativus plant that is native to the Middle East. Saffron was used to color the robes of emperors in ancient Persia and later, the robes of Buddhist monks in Asia. It was introduced to Europe through Spain in the 8th century and used in manuscript illumination until the 16th century. The deep yellow to orange color in saffron is primarily due to crocetin and crocin. The colorants are extracted by boiling the dried flowers in water. Saffron is a substantive dye that produces a strong yellow color on alum mordanted and unmordanted wool. Copper mordanting produces a greenish yellow shade. Saffron was used for manuscript illumination and for coloring prints and maps. The transparent colorant was also used as a watercolor pigment and a tint in varnishes. It is still used as a dyestuff and as a cooking spice.
Synonyms and Related Terms
Crocus sativus; Natural Yellow 6; CI 75100; karcom (Lat.); azafrán (Esp.); auripetrum colorant; safran (Fr., Dan.); safrankrokus (Dan.); Echter Safran (Deut.); zafferano (It.); safraan (Ned.); saffran (Sven.); szafran (Pol.); krokos bafikos (Gr.); zafora (Gr.); açafrão (Port.); crocin; crocetin; French saffron; zafran; crocus dye; red gold; vegetable gold
Crocetin is soluble in water, ethanol, alkali solutions. Crocetin forms a blue solution in concentrated sulfuric acid.
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