Unavailable Pigments


One of the most interesting bits of trivia I've learned while picking up painting is that certain pigments are unavailable today or rapidly disappearing.

Some of these are:

  • the original Carmine (Cochineal), formed from crushed bugs. This was not lightfast and thus discontinued.

  • the original Emerald Green a.k.a. Paris Green. This was a compound of arsenic and copper; it was poisonous after being painted and the fumes reportedly killed some people.

  • Ultramarine Green. This stopped being manufactured in 1960.

  • Quinacridone Gold (two shades of it). Again, stopped being manufactured; this one around 2004.

  • Naples Yellow (a lead compound) - somewhat toxic.

Genuine Lead White (a.k.a. Cremnitz or Flake White) is bobbling along on this area: it's a health risk, but not a significant one unless you have small children. The Cadmium family (reds through yellows) is under attack in the EU. It is largely safe unless you ingest the dust... then it's a big problem. Fortunately, that's rare. Unfortunately, Lead White and Cadmium have paint properties unavailable in their less toxic cousins, so if these get

A nifty business idea for a chemist would be to to try to haul out lists of the pigments from different times and determine which ones would be useful today with modern chemical knowledge, then produce & sell the pigments at a suitably boutique price. Specific ones from the above list that would retain significant interest would be Ultramarine Green and the Quinacridones, since they are non-toxic and colorfast.