Kermes, or Kerms, from which is got the "Scarlet of Grain" of the old

dyers, is one of the old insect dyes. It is considered by most dyers

to be the first of the red dyes, being more permanent than cochineal

and brighter than madder. In the 10th century it was in general use in

Europe. The reds of the Gothic tapestries were dyed with it, and are

very permanent, much more so than the reds of later tapestries, which

were dyed with cochineal. Bancroft says "The Kermes red or scarlet,

though less vivid, is more durable than that of cochineal. The fine

blood-red seen at this time on old tapestries in different parts of

Europe, unfaded, though many of them are two or three hundred years

old, were all dyed from Kermes, with the aluminous basis, on woollen


Kermes consists of the dried bodies of a small scale insect, Coccus

ilicis, found principally on the ilex oak, in the South of Europe,

and still used there.

William Morris speaks of the "Al-kermes or coccus which produces with

an ordinary aluminous mordant a central red, true vermilion, and with

a good dose of acid a full scarlet, which is the scarlet of the Middle

Ages, and was used till about the year 1656, when a Dutch chemist

discovered the secret of getting a scarlet from cochineal by the use

of tin, and so produced a cheaper, brighter and uglier scarlet."

Kermes is employed exactly like cochineal. It has a pleasant aromatic

smell which it gives to the wool when dyed with it.

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