The History of Nail Polish – China
We have been researching the history of nail polish, which is more complicated than it sounds. There are several theories about when and where the idea actually began, but we think we’ve got one that makes sense.
Starting the Trend
We are pretty sure nail polish itself comes from henna decorations in India during the Bronze Age. The idea quickly spread to Babylon where they invented the idea of a manicure and began using nail colour to indicate social status.
The ancient Chinese used a mixture of egg whites, gelatin, beeswax, gum Arabic, alum and flower petals for their colour.
Using nail colour to proclaim social status was also adopted in China near the same time as in Ancient Babylon (around 3000 B.C.). However the Chinese were more sophisticated in their methods and were the first to combine different ingredients and create a more complicated staining process.
They were also less tolerant and nail colouring of any type was reserved for royal classes only.
In India and Babylonia colouring nails was more of a male tradition, but we think in China the idea of colouring nails made its way onto women as well. To achieve a larger range of shades, rose, orchid & impatiens petals were used. It was thought that the most popular colours used were black and varying shades of red.
Making it Personal
As time wore on in China, the people began painting their nails colours of the ruling dynasty. This obviously expanded the ranges of colour and methods of creating polish became ever more sophisticated. Gold and silver dust were used to create glittering shades and often nails were inlaid with precious stones and complicated cloisonné designs.