Cobalt Blue - is it a horse? No, it's a colour!

Cobalt Blue - is it a horse? No, it's a colour!

Cobalt Blue - it sounds like an entry to The Melbourne Cup but it’s actually a hue of blue with a fascinating history…

The word "cobalt" is derived from "Kobold," the name of a mischievous goblin in German mythology.  Miners looking for silver thought that Kobold replaced the silver with a worthless mineral that looked similar.  Turns out, it wasn’t so worthless after all.  Like Jack’s mother who throws away the magic beans in disgust, the miners discarded stone turned out to be quite valuable.  Of course, aside for being used as a colour it is now a key material for our renewable energy industries.

Cobalt blue’s rich history spans centuries from ancient civilizations in Mesopotamia, Egypt and China where minerals contain cobalt were used to colour glass and ceramics.  However it wasn’t until 1735 that Swedish chemist George Brandt discovered it as a separate element – cobalt CO, and the pigment we know today as cobalt blue was synthesised in 1802 by Louis Jacques Thénard.  He had been appointed by the French government to find a more affordable alternative to the costly lapis lazuli pigment, known as ultramarine blue. Cobalt blue was quickly adopted by artists as it was a new hue of blue, semi-opaque, dried quickly and kept its colour.  Indeed, Van Gogh writes to his brother Teo, ‘Cobalt — is a divine colour, and there’s nothing so fine as that for putting atmosphere around things’. 

 Cobalt blue is neither warm nor cool in tone, so it flatters all skin tones.  It’s vibrant, yet tranquil.  It signals power and stability, yet it will put a spring in your step!  Cobalt blue pieces of clothing can be easily paired with most shades, creating different moods.  With grey for an understated and sophisticated look, white for clean and crisp, green for harmony. 

 Cobalt blue’s discovery has shaped our world in design and art, and now in the world of industry it continues to be hugely valuable. 

Back to blog