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Tapis dyed with turmeric
MFA# 1980.282


Turmeric Ukon rhizomes

A natural yellow or brown dye obtained from the root the Curcuma domestica (or C. longa) plant native to India and southeast Asia. Turmeric was used in Polynesia as a textile and skin dye. It was known in Mesopotamia and used by the ancient Greeks and Romans. When it was imported to Europe is 1612, it became a popular yellow dye for Silk scarves. The roots are dried then powdered for sale. The primary color component in turmeric is curcumin. It is a water-soluble dye that forms a bright yellow color on Cotton without a Mordant. Darker orange to brown shades are produced with Alum, Tin, Chromium, and Copper mordants. Iron mordants produce a dull green shade. The fugitive colorant was also used to make Yellow pigments and to tint varnishes. Turmeric is currently used as a flavoring agent in curry powder and as a yellow colorant in mustard, cheese, Paper, Wood, and Wax.


Synonyms and Related Terms

tumeric (sp, AAT); Curcuma domestica; Curcuma longa; Natural Yellow 3; CI 75300; curcumin; safran des Indes (Fr.); Gelbwurz (Deut.); terra merita (It.); cúrcuma (Esp.); curcuma (Ned., Port.); merita earth; camotilla; haide; halad; Indian saffron; safran d'Inde; souchet; ukon (Jap.); tumerick; turmerech; terre merite; yellow ginger; yellow root; yo-kin


Turmeric, ground, McCormick.TIF


Color is sensitive to light. Turns red in alkaline and acid solutions.

ThermoFisher: SDS

Physical and Chemical Properties

Curcumin is soluble in water, ethanol and ether.

Fluoresces green.

ISO R105 Lightfastness Classification = 1

Composition C21H20O6
CAS 458-37-7
Melting Point 183 C
Molecular Weight mol. wt. = 368.39

Additional Images

Resources and Citations

  • Palmy Weigle, Ancient Dyes for Modern Weavers, Watson-Guptill Publications, New York, 1974 Comment: Gives plant name as Curcuma longa
  • R.D. Harley, Artists' Pigments c. 1600-1835, Butterworth Scientific, London, 1982
  • Matt Roberts, Don Etherington, Bookbinding and the Conservation of Books: a Dictionary of Descriptive Terminology, U.S. Government Printing Office, Washington DC, 1982 Comment: Gives plant name as Curcuma longa
  • John and Margaret Cannon, Dye Plants and Dyeing, Herbert Press, London, 1994
  • R.Feller, M.Curran, C.Bailie, 'Identification of Traditional Organic Colorants Employed in Japanese Prints and Determination of their Rates of Fading', Japanese Woodblock Prints, Allen Memorial Art Museum, Oberlin College, Oberlin, 1984
  • F. Crace-Calvert, Dyeing and Calico Printing, Palmer & Howe, London, 1876 Comment: Gives plant name as Curcuma longa
  • J. Thornton, 'The Use of Dyes and Colored Varnishes in Wood Polychromy', Painted Wood: History and Conservation, The Getty Conservation Insitute, Los Angeles, 1998 Comment: lists Curcuma domestica as currently accepted name; C.longa as former; also C.tinctoria, C.verdiflora as additional names
  • Sigma Dyes, Stains and Natural Pigments, Infrared Library, Nicolet, 1991-1995 Comment: OMNIC: formula= C21H20O6, CAS= 458-37-7, plant name as C.longa
  • Helmut Schweppe, Schweppe color collection index and information book
  • The Merck Index, Martha Windholz (ed.), Merck Research Labs, Rahway NJ, 10th edition, 1983 Comment: entry 9955
  • The American Heritage Dictionary or Encarta, via Microsoft Bookshelf 98, Microsoft Corp., 1998
  • Colour Index International online at www.colour-index.org Comment: CAS= 458-37-7
  • G.S.Brady, Materials Handbook, McGraw-Hill Book Co., New York, 1971 Comment: p. 360
  • Ralph Mayer, A Dictionary of Art Terms and Techniques, Harper and Row Publishers, New York, 1969 (also 1945 printing) Comment: Gives plant name as Curcuma longa
  • Book and Paper Group, Paper Conservation Catalog, AIC, 1984, 1989
  • "Violin Varnish Glossary" at www.violins.on.ca/luthier.vargloss.html - gives plant name as Curcuma longa
  • Tom Rowland, Noel Riley, A-Z Guide to Cleaning, Conserving and Repairing Antiques, Constable and Co., Ltd., London, 1981

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