A Vibrant History, A Vibrant Future


Ultramarine occupies a unique place in the world of colour. Its intense beauty has always been highly valued through many centuries, and by many cultures.

Until the early 19th century, the only source of ultramarine was the rare and expensive lapis lazuli. This semi-precious mineral was usually reserved for artworks of great importance, such as the funeral mask of Tutankhamen and decoration of the Taj Mahal. Artists of the Renaissance chose it to colour garments of Christ and the Virgin Mary, despite the fact that lapis lazuli cost more than gold.

Ultramarine pigments in pots

Lapis lazuli pyramid

Once a genuine synthetic alternative was found in the early 1800s, ultramarine quickly found many and varied applications. Indeed Holliday Pigments’ company history dates back to when our own Reckitt’s Blue ultramarine was one of the leading laundry starch ‘whiteners’.


Today we feel privileged to be part of the ongoing ultramarine story.

In 1824 the French Société d’Encouragement Pour l’Industrie Nationale offered 6,000 francs to anyone discovering a suitable alternative to lapis lazuli-based pigment. Jean Baptiste Guimet won the award in 1828; his synthetic ultramarine cost 880 francs per kilo, as compared to the 6,000 to 9,000 francs price tag on the same quantity of lapis lazuli.


Two bags of Reckitt's Blue