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Monday Mani : 10/12/15

Happy Monday Manicure! For the launch of our Monday Manicure blog, we chose an ocean-coral nail art design.

For our first Monday Manicure, I was just going to put in a nice manicure photo and be done with it. However, it occured to me that I really don't know much about how or why we humans decided to start painting our fingernails and having manicures. So, thanks to the internet, I found a wealth of information right at my "DIY" manicured fingertips.

3500 B.C. - 1781 B.C. --- Ancient Babylonian Men Set the Trend: It seems that well manicured hands and coloured nails, using kohl, were a way to distinguish between the different classes in Babylonia. Black was the power colour for the upper echelon man while green was the scene for the lower echelon man.

1300 B.C. - 1st Century B.C. --- Ancient Egypt’s “It Girls”, Cleopatra and Queen Nefertiti, set the Bold Red Nail Trend: During this time, hands were pampered with various formulas of incense and oils. To strengthen the nails, special herbal extracts were applied. Fingernails were dyed with henna during this time, typically using shades of yellow or orange. However, Cleopatra and Queen Nefertiti would have nothing to do with anything “typical." They believed the bolder the colour, the more power they held. So, they opted for the boldest of the bold – red. Cleopatra went with a blood red hue and Nefertiti, a ruby red. With this belief established, slaves of the time were permitted to have pastel hued nail colours.

1100 B.C. –300 B.C.--- The Creation of Nail Polish and The Zhou Dynasty Makes Gold and Silver "The" Royal Nail Colours: The creation of nail polish happens in China, approximately 600 B.C. Fingernails were also inlaid with precious stones and complex cloisonné designs. Gold and silver were the colors of the ruling Zhou Dynasty and nail polish became the way to indicate wealth and social status. Only royals were permitted to paint their nails with gold or silver nail polish. This distinguished the ruling class from the general population. The average Chinese woman was permitted to wear light pink nail polish. These nail colour regulations actually had severe consequences – the death penalty. Historians and archeologists have found several ancient reports that have recorded the public execution of common people who were caught with royal coloured painted fingernails.

1368–1644 --- The Ming Dynasty claims Red and Black as their On Trend Nail Colours: Both male and female members of the Ming Dynasty had perfectly manicured, talon-like nails. And, nail-shaped fingertip extensions wrought out of precious metal became "the" status symbol for women of the aristocracy. Since the ruling Ming Dynasty colours were red and black, those were the status colours for nobility. A mixture of egg whites, vegetable dyes, beeswax, gelatin and Arabic gum were the foundation of the nail polish. By adding rose and orchid petals, desired shades of colour were obtainable. The nails had to be soaked in this mixture for a few hours in order for the color to set.

And, I can’t seem to find out any more information on the nail colour regulations, so I don’t know if the death penalty was still the consequence. I think it probably was since it seems like distinguishing between the ruling class and the general public was of great importance to the ruling class.

What started out to be a “fun fact” brief history ended up having some disturbing information… I wasn’t sure if I should include it but that is part of the history of nail polish and to ignore it, not put it in or make up something “nicey-nice” just didn’t seem cool to me.

Check back next Monday for more on the History of Nail Polish and the Manicure

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