Cochineal dye is a traditional natural dye for colouring textiles in Central and South America and has been used for beautiful, lightfast and permanent scarlets, pinks and reds for centuries. Cochineal was so important that Moctezuma levied an annual tribute of cochineal dye in the 15th century and cochineal was Mexico’s second most valuable export after silver.
Cochineal was introduced into Europe by the Spanish in the 1500s and very rapidly became the dye of choice for expensive but desirable scarlet and red clothes for kings and nobles, supplanting the European dye products then in use. Cochineal was replaced by synthetic dyes during the 1800s but is now seeing a pronounced resurgence of interest, with the increased use of non-synthetic, natural dyes. More on cochineal history here…