The history of nail coatings is fascinating and surprising, did you know that the ancient Egyptians coloured their nails? Or that roman warriors favoured bright red nails and lips? Well they matched their shields!
Seriously though, here’s a timeline of the history of nails so far. I’ve split the story in to several posts as the more I researched the more I found out, here goes….
According to Ming dynasty manuscripts from as far back as 3000 BC nail colour was used to indicate a persons place in the social hierarchy, for example royal fingernails were black and red. They used a clever combination of Arabic Gum, egg whites, gelatine and beeswax to create their nail colours. I’d have thought this was really effective, I’m not sure how they would have smelled though! Later at around 600BC Gold and Silver were the royal nail colours the lower ranking individuals were only able to use paler colours. In fact there was a death sentence for wearing a colour above your social standing. Talk about fashion suicide!
The Temple of Heaven, Beijing. Ming Dynasty
But it wasn’t just China where nails were cared for. Gold tools were used by nobles in Southern Babylonia to tend their finger and toenails.
There is evidence that Queen Cleopatra (circa 51BC) was famously devoted to enhancing her own already beautiful appearance and used henna to stain her finger and toenails. Queen Nefertiti painted her nails a dark red ruby shade. There are even records that the ancient Egyptian and Roman commanders painted their nails to match their lips before a battle. They must have been quite a fearsome sight
To be continued!