Bacchus and Ariadne, Titian, oil on canvas, National Gallery, London
Ultramarine, the rarest shade of blue

Which colour was once more expensive than gold?

Add a touch of luxury to your home with this intense colour

Can you guess which colour was once more expensive than gold? The answer is ultramarine, a brilliantly intense blue that was painstakingly ground from lapis lazuli gemstones. Its name literally means ‘over the sea’, because lapis was mainly mined in Afghanistan. Notoriously hard to come by, ultramarine was used sparingly by European artists and was often reserved for painting the robes of Mary and the infant Christ. As a result of the high price, artists sometimes economised by using a cheaper blue, azurite, for underpainting.

Luckily, today we can achieve this look of luxury without spending a fortune. Because of its intensity, ultramarine is most effective when used in small doses, either as an accent shade or through accessories, like a statement rug or pendant light. It works particularly well in spaces where you want to create a feeling of true blue bliss, like the bedroom or bathroom. You could even create a mosaic tile feature in the bathroom to recreate the feeling of a luxurious seaside spa.

Fetching the data, please wait...