One of the most beautiful colors of the rainbow, purple describes just about any combination of the primary colors blue and red.

Purple Eyeshadow

Purple eyeshadow can be stunning

For centuries, this color was associated with royalty for the simple reason that, until the 1800s, purple was a difficult color to create for clothing. In antiquity, “purpura” dye was derived from a variety of snail called the spiny murex, found in the waters of the Mediterranean. It supposedly took 12,000 mollusks to obtain a few scant grams of the pure color. No wonder it is said that the Emperor Aurelian refused to let his wife buy a purpura-dyed robe that was said to cost its weight in gold.

By the Middle Ages in Europe, purple dye was created from insects of the genus Kermes, various lichens and the madder plant. Along with shades of blue, it continued to be difficult to create the color, so it was still worn by the nobility. In fact, sumptuary laws, designed to regulate social hierarchies, dictated not only the colors that could be worn by certain classes, they also listed the types of clothing, the fabrics used, where they were made and details of the trims used.

Purple became available to everyone in the middle of the Victorian age with the development of synthetic dyes. Aniline was derived from the indigo plant and “mauvine” became the most fashionable color for clothing for many years.

In terms of makeup, purple eye shadow suits every eye color – most especially green and hazel. Technically, it is the color opposite one on a color wheel that makes a shade more “active." However, most of us would look like a lab rat if we wore red eye shadow, so in the case of green eyes, we go toward the complementary color purple.

Green-eyed beauties can successfully choose any shade of purple from palest lilac to deepest violet to enhance their eye color. These will also work for brown eyes. Those of you with blue eyes will find the more red shades of purple most complementary.

However, when it comes to purple lipsticks and blushes, these are more dependent on skin color. Those of you with darker skin tones will find that purple shades can look gorgeous on you, but those of you with lighter skin tones find it more difficult to carry off. Someone with my coloring can’t do lavender lips, but someone with blue eyes, dark hair and porcelain skin would have more success with it.

Here are some of the loveliest purples available this spring:

NARS Night Fairy

Eye shadows:

Eye liners: Sue Devitt Eye Intensifier in Ava, Urban Decay 24/7 Pencil in Lust, MAC Technakohl in Purple Dash, Laura Mercier Liquid Eye Liner in Violette, and Revlon Powder Liner in Plum Wicked.

Blushes: Bare Escentuals Heaven, Tarte Cheek Stain in Cloud 9, DKNY Delicious Night Lip & Cheek Stain (comes in one sheer cherry plum shade), Givenchy Prisme Again! Blush Quartet in Charming Violet, and Make Up For Ever Lavender 9.

Lips: L’Oreal Star Secrets in Milla Purple, MAC Cyber, Dior Addict Front-Row Fig, Cargo Plant Love in Muir Woods, Sephora Ultra Shine Lip Gloss in Silver Purple, Bourjois Effet 3D Lip Gloss in Cassis Tropical, and Lancôme Juicy Tubes in Sweet Raisin.

For the young or young at heart who love sparkle, try Revlon Sugar Sugar Lip Topping in Pixie Plum.

And for those of you who really love all things purple – a visit to The Purple Store is probably a must!