I agree with what you write
about the high value of central American Cochineal for the Spanish
economy. It was indeed as important as Mexican and Peruvian silver. And
yes, it was still more expensive than madder, the «commodity red».
it was hugely cheaper than oak kermes (which contains a slightly different
dye called Kermesic acid). And much cheaper than two varieties of
cochineal previously used in Europe, Middle East and Central Asia, both
containing mainly carminic acid too (*): Armenian Ararat cochineal
(Porphyrophora hameli) and Polish cochineal (Margarodes polonicus) (**).
There is no doubt that cochineal (whatever its origin) was known
in Turkey, Persia and central Asia since centuries. While the Turkmen were
no gifted merchants and the Persian played in a minor league too, the
local Jew, Armenian and Bokharan Tadjik did not need any crash course in
In the information given by a site claiming that
«carminic acid is what gives it it's intense red color. By using an
alkaline, you would be neutralizing the very thing that gives it it's
color and an acid solution is required for a bright red» the second
part of the sentence is incorrect.
In fact, all(***) major
natural red dyes used for dyeing wool for rugs share a common feature,
their «chromophore» (as the name implies, the moiety responsible for the
color ), which is always a chemical structure called «di-hydroxy
anthraquinone», with only a few secondary details to differentiate them
(additional substituents and their position in the chromophore). The
acidity or alkalinity of the dye-bath is irrelevant for the coloration
of the chromophore itself, but strongly influences what we call in
our dyer’s pidgin its «affinity» for wool. Translated in English it simply
means that more dye molecules leave an acid dye-bath and penetrate the
fibre than in an alkaline dye-bath.
I am not sure whether dye chemistry
is a wild and un-controlable passion for many Turkotekers, thus I shall
only mention quickly here that the presence of a so-called «carboxylic
acid substituent» is what gives its common name to «carminic acid». This
substituent (and its particular position in the chromophore) is also what
makes hard water unsuitable for dyeing with cochineal since calcium ions
form an insoluble salt with it.
(*) To differentiate them is
not easy even with HPLC DAD analysis.
(**) Burnes mentions as well a
variety of cochineal indigenous to the banks of the Amu darya, but does
not identify the insect and adds that the Bokharan did not know how to use
(***) Including all botanical variety of Rubia (R.
tinctorum, munjeet, etc..) and the insect reds "lac", kermes as well as
all varieties of cochineal.