infobox color|title=Ultramarine|hex=120a8f|textcolor=white

Ultramarine is a blue pigment consisting primarily of a double silicate of aluminium and sodium with some sulfides or sulfates, and occurring in nature as a proximate component of lapis lazuli. In the past, it has also been known as "azzurrum ultramarine, azzurrum transmarinum, azzuro oltramarino, azur d'Acre, pierre d'azur, Lazurstein." Current terminology for ultramarine include natural ultramarine (English), "outremer lapis" (French), "Ultramarin echt" (German), "oltremare genuino" (Italian), and "ultramarino verdadero" (Spanish). The pigment color code is P. Blue 29 77007. Ultramarine is the most complex of the mineral pigments, a complex sulfur-containing sodio-silicate (Na8-10Al6Si6O24S2-4), essentially a mineralized limestone containing a blue cubic mineral called lazurite (the major component in lapis lazuli). Some chloride is often present in the crystal lattice as well. The blue color of the pigment is due to the S3 radical anion, which contains an unpaired electron.


The name derives from Middle Latin 'ultramarinus', literally "beyond the sea" because it was imported from Asia by sea. [ [http://www.etymonline.com/index.php?search=ultramarine&searchmode=none Online Etymology Dictionary ] ]


The first noted use of lapis lazuli as a pigment can be seen in the 6th- and 7th-century AD cave paintings in Afghanistan temples, near the most famous source of the mineral. Lapis lazuli has also been identified in Chinese paintings from the 10th and 11th centuries, in Indian mural paintings from the 11th, 12th, and 17th centuries, and on Anglo-Saxon and Norman illuminated manuscripts from c.1100. Natural ultramarine is the most difficult pigment to grind by hand, and for all except the highest quality of mineral sheer grinding and washing produces only a pale grayish blue powder. At the beginning of the 13th century an improved method came into use, described by the 15th century artist Cennino Cennini. This process consisted of mixing the ground material with melted wax, resins, and oils, wrapping the resulting mass in a cloth, and then kneading it in a dilute lye solution. The blue particles collect at the bottom of the pot, while the impurities and colorless crystals remain in the mass. This process was performed at least three times, with each successive extraction generating a lower quality material. The final extraction, consisting largely of colorless material as well as a few blue particles, brings forth ultramarine ash which is prized as a glaze for its pale blue transparency.

The pigment was most extensively used during the 14th through 15th centuries, as its brilliance complemented the vermilion and gold of illuminated manuscripts and Italian panel paintings. It was valued chiefly on account of its brilliancy of tone and its inertness in opposition to sunlight, oil, and slaked lime. It is, however, extremely susceptible to even minute and dilute mineral acids and acid vapors. Dilute HCl, HNO3, and H2SO4 rapidly destroy the blue color, producing hydrogen sulfide (H2S) in the process. Acetic acid attacks the pigment at a much slower rate than mineral acids. Because of this susceptibility, ultramarine was only used for frescoes when it was applied "secco", in which the pigment was mixed with a binding medium and applied over dry plaster (such as Giotto di Bondone's frescos in the Cappella degli Scrovegni or Arena Chapel in Padua).

European artists used the pigment sparingly, reserving their highest quality blues for the robes of Mary and the Christ child. As a result of the high price, artists sometimes economized by using a cheaper blue, azurite, for under painting. Most likely imported to Europe through Venice, the pigment was seldom seen in German art or art from countries north of Italy. Due to a shortage of azurite in the late 16th and 17th century the demand for the already-expensive ultramarine increased dramatically. In 1814 Tassaert observed the spontaneous formation of a blue compound, very similar to ultramarine, if not identical with it, in a lime kiln at St. Gobain, which caused the Societé pour l'Encouragement d'Industrie to offer, in 1824, a prize for the artificial production of the precious color. Processes were devised by Jean Baptiste Guimet (1826) and by Christian Gmelin (1828), then professor of chemistry in Tübingen; but while Guimet kept his process a secret Gmelin published his, and thus became the originator of the "artificial ultramarine" industry.

Chemistry and manufacture

The raw materials used in the manufacture are: (1) iron-free kaolin, or some other kind of pure clay, which should contain its silica and alumina as nearly as possible in the proportion of SiO2:Al2O3 demanded by the formula assigned to ideal kaolin (a deficit of silica, however, it appears can be made up for by addition of the calculated weight of finely divided silica); (2) anhydrous Na2SO4; (3) anhydrous Na2CO3; (4) powdered sulfur; and (5) powdered charcoal or relatively ash-free coal, or colophony in lumps.

The materials are 'baked' together in a kiln, usually in brick sized amounts. The resultant solids are then ground and washed as per any other insoluble pigment manufacturing process. [http://www.york.ac.uk/org/seg/salters/chemistry/V_VisitHP/dryprocess2.html] The chemical reaction produces large amounts of sulfur dioxide meaning that Flue gas desulfurization is an essential part of its manufacture to comply with pollution regulations. Large chimneys were used to disperse sulfur dioxide produced in the process, resulting in ultramarine tinting the surrounding ground surfaces and roof vents with a blue color. (Google Maps offers views of two such synthetic ultramarine manufacturing sites, one near [http://maps.google.com/?ie=UTF8&t=k&om=1&ll=53.763363,-0.33092&spn=0.003019,0.007735&z=17 Hull, England] (now defunct) and another in [http://maps.google.com/maps?f=q&hl=en&geocode=&q=comines+france+Route+de+Wervicq&sll=50.780652,3.011112&sspn=0.012916,0.031028&ie=UTF8&ll=50.768894,3.033246&spn=0.001615,0.003878&t=k&z=18 Comines, France] .)

"Ultramarine poor in silica" is obtained by fusing a mixture of soft clay, sodium sulfate, charcoal, sodium carbonate and sulfur. The product is at first white, but soon turns green ("green ultramarine") when it is mixed with sulfur and heated. The sulfur burns, and a fine blue pigment is obtained. "Ultramarine rich in silica" is generally obtained by heating a mixture of pure clay, very fine white sand, sulfur and charcoal in a muffle-furnace. A blue product is obtained at once, but a red tinge often results. The different ultramarines—green, blue, red and violet—are finely ground and washed with water.

ynthetic alternatives

Synthetic ultramarine is not as vivid a blue as natural ultramarine, since the particles in synthetic ultramarine are smaller and more uniform than natural ultramarine and therefore diffuse light more evenly. Synthetic ultramarine is also not as permanent as natural ultramarine.

Artificial, like natural, ultramarine has a magnificent blue colour, which is not affected by light nor by contact with oil or lime as used in painting. Hydrochloric acid immediately bleaches it with liberation of hydrogen sulfide. It is remarkable that even a small addition of zinc-white (oxide of zinc) to the reddish varieties especially causes a considerable diminution in the intensity of the colour, while dilution with artificial precipitated sulfate of lime ("annalin") or sulfate of baryta ("blanc fix") acts pretty much as one would expectvague|date=March 2008 . Synthetic ultramarine being very cheap, it is largely used for wall painting, the printing of paperhangings and calico, etc., and also as a corrective for the yellowish tinge often present in things meant to be white, such as linen, paper, etc. Bluing or "Laundry blue" is a solution of synthetic ultramarine (sometimes, prussian blue) that is used for this purpose when washing white clothes. Large quantities are used in the manufacture of paper, and especially for producing a kind of pale blue writing paper which is popular in Britain.

Ultramarine is based on the sodalite structure which is a 3 dimensional aluminosilicate cage containing 3 sulfur atoms bonded together to form an ion. These ions are charge balanced by cations of sodium in the natural material. The sodium ions can be ion exchanged with lithium and potassium as described above. The modification of the ions has a dramatic effect on the structure of the cages. Lithium being smaller than sodium causes the cage to contract whilst potassium being large causes the cage to expand. The modification of the cage structure and the interaction of the different cations with the central sulfur species modifies the colouration of the final pigment.

By treating blue ultramarine with silver nitrate solution, "silver-ultramarine" is obtained as a yellow powder. This compound gives a blue potassium- and lithium-ultramarine when treated with the corresponding chloride, and an ethyl-ultramarine when treated with ethyl iodide. Selenium- and tellurium-ultramarine, in which these elements replace the sulfur, have also been prepared.


External links

* [http://aic.stanford.edu/jaic/articles/jaic30-02-001.html Discussion of ultramarine] in an article on blue pigments in early Sienese paintings from "The Journal of the American Institute for Conservation"

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  • Ultramarine — Ul tra*ma*rine , n. [Cf. Sp. ultramarino. So called because the lapis lazuli was originally brought from beyond the sea, from Asia.] (Chem.) A blue pigment formerly obtained by powdering lapis lazuli, but now produced in large quantities by… …   The Collaborative International Dictionary of English

  • Ultramarine — ist: englisch für Ultramarin, Sammelbezeichnung für anorganische Pigmente unterschiedlichen Farbtons englischer Originaltitel eines Romans von Malcolm Lowry, siehe Ultramarin (Roman) Ultramarine (Band), eine britische Electronica Band Siehe auch …   Deutsch Wikipedia

  • ultramarine — [ul΄trə mə rēn′] adj. [ML ultramarinus: see ULTRA & MARINE] 1. beyond the sea 2. deep blue n. 1. a blue pigment originally made by grinding lapis lazuli to a powder 2. a blue pigment of similar chemical composition prepared from other substances …   English World dictionary

  • Ultramarine — Ul tra*ma*rine , a. [Pref. ultra + marine.] Situated or being beyond the sea. Burke. [1913 Webster] …   The Collaborative International Dictionary of English

  • ultramarine — (n.) 1590s, blue pigment made from lapis lazuli, from M.L. ultramarinus, lit. beyond the sea, from ULTRA (Cf. ultra ) beyond + marinus of the sea (see MARINE (Cf. marine)). So called because the mineral was imported from Asia by sea …   Etymology dictionary

  • ultramarine — ► NOUN 1) a brilliant deep blue pigment originally obtained from lapis lazuli. 2) a brilliant deep blue colour. ORIGIN from obsolete Italian azzurro oltramarino azure from overseas (because the lapis lazuli was imported), from Latin ultramarinus… …   English terms dictionary

  • Ultramarine — Cette page d’homonymie répertorie les différents sujets et articles partageant un même nom. Ultramarine, bleu outremer en anglais, peut faire référence à : Ultramarine, un groupe français de jazz fusion, dont Mokhtar Samba est un membre… …   Wikipédia en Français

  • ultramarine — /ul treuh meuh reen /, adj. 1. of the color ultramarine. 2. beyond the sea. n. 3. a blue pigment consisting of powdered lapis lazuli. 4. a similar artificial blue pigment. 5. any of various other pigments. 6. a deep blue color. [1590 1600; < ML… …   Universalium

  • ultramarine — [[t]ʌ̱ltrəməri͟ːn[/t]] COLOUR Ultramarine is used to describe things that are very bright blue in colour. ...an ultramarine sky …   English dictionary

  • ultramarine — colorful colorful adj. 1. having striking color. Opposite of {colorless}. Note: [Narrower terms: {changeable, chatoyant, iridescent, shot}; {deep, rich}; {flaming}; {fluorescent, glowing}; {prismatic}; {psychedelic}; {red, ruddy, flushed,… …   The Collaborative International Dictionary of English

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