The Dye Trade

In our saga we are located on the Cap de Creus, near what I understand are historic production centers of crimson dye. I'm interested in trying to involve the covenant in the dye production or trade, but I'm having trouble finding information.

Anyone have knowledge of it, or a handy online reference?

I understand that the dye is made from crushed kermes beetle shells, which grow from local oaks. Presumably peasants gather these up as a matter of long-standing course, and transport them to a dye maker, who makes dye which traders sell at an outrageous markup.

I'm wondering if the dye is considered a royal monopoly? I doubt it, but it's possible.

Is there a particular merchant consortium that controls the trade? Or is it more decentralized, with local dye makers selling up the line to merchants who concentrate the commodity for export?

It seems likely that if there's no higher authority with superior rights, the local lord would own the kermes wherever they appear on the land (in this case it's a co-dominion between a monastery and the local count). I suspect the magi won't like a bunch of peasants tromping through "their land" to collect beetles.

If need be I'll just say 'there's a local merchant in Roses who has the local monopoly; deal with him,' but I'd rather have the information.

We're also near the coast; I suppose the covenant might be interested in collecting murex snails, but similar issues crop up - is there a monopoly, and would the local lord have the right?

For information, purple can also be produced by crushing seashells (from the murex family), which were - I believe - the first source of purple dye, before the kermes beetle.
Several Mediterranean varieties of murex allows the production of purple dye.

I don't know how historically it would fit (and honestly don't care as long as it can lead to good story line), but it could be a possible to have as a plot, a fierce guildwar between Guild of the Kermes vs the Guild of the Shell. Both will probably have or hire alchemist of various skills level, including some natural magicians. Obviously, those magicians cannot go toes to toes against magi, but they have the support of a guild, powerful political allies and maybe even popular if they are also providing some medical services.

Knowledgeable alchemists (magi) could tilt the competition on way or the other by using magic or natural alchemy. Alternativley, they could also become a third competitor.
It will immediately put in the vincinity of the magi some educated men, with pottentially some knowledge of mystical arts, keen to exchange information or obtain more knowledge. Trade secrets, alchemical formulae, philosophical stones. Lots of potential,


Maybe you should try to search for "carmine" which is the name for the red color from these insects.
Or the historical name Kermes:

The German Wikipedia has some more informations:

  1. The insects live at the roots of different plants mainly at the roots of a special oak
  2. the dye is very old. They have found dyed fabrics from the early iron age.
  3. 1 kg insects will result int 50 g dye. For 1 kg dye you need 100000 insects.


Respectfully cochineal and kermes are separate dyes, from separate - if related - animals. One replaces the other during the 16th century. The Kermes Vermilo doesn't live in roots. ... l-info.pdf


Yes, agreed. TimOB asked about kermes, and I wanted to make clear that the dye from Kermes was called carmine and not purple.
As I understood the dye made from cohineal is the real purple.

According to the German Wikipedia it does. (My only source on this subject.)


I mixed up things ... Confused cochineal with Hexaplex trunculus.

So please ignore my previous post.

Maybe my English is not good enough here. I understand the cochineal and kermes are different dyes, but the color in both cases is called carmine.
Or I am mistaken here?


In English carmine and crimson are different shades of red. (My limited understanding is that English goes to relative extremes in differentiating and shading colors, compared to even other Indo-European languages.)

Hexaplex Trunculus sounds like a good name for a magus!

In English, Carmine means this sort of colour, and the type of purple we're talking about is like this. Admittedly, Tyrian/Royal purple is definitely a more reddish-purple than, say, something like Lavender.

That's helpful, Timothy - thanks.

It seems the guilds, who surely pay a pretty penny to some local nobleman, are dominated in the West by mainly Italian merchant houses with connections to dyer's guilds. It seems likely that the guild has the established right to tromp wherever they must to collect beetles. Into that mix, I add the Coenobium, which has an interest in dying per Faith & Flame, stir, simmer, and we have plotting.

These local kermes oaks are surely also a sources of oak galls for iron pigment. It's plausible that the right to collect oak galls is also reserved to someone.

So, that's at least three local dye resources to quibble over. Good.

There's a whole line of magic in dying and pigments, I'm sure, for some Imaginem specialist with an eye toward alchemy and herbalism.

New spell related to the subject :create the emperors cloth dye (working title )
basically you create a gallon of purple dye, note that this is a ritual so it is permanent
Creoaquam 35
range touch
duration permanent
target individual
what do you think?

It's too high a level for what it does under 5e rules.

Base 2 - Fill a container with water. +1 for Range : Touch, +0 for Duration : Momentary and +0 for Target : Individual, Ritual.

In addition, the dye should probably be considered at least slightly unnatural, more likely very unnatural for another +1 or +2 Magnitudes.

As a processed liquid, Target : Individual is a volume of liquid 1 pace in diameter and 0.5 paces deep, or approximately 10.6 cubic feet of liquid. With 7.48 gallons per cubic foot, you'd get ~75 gallons of dye.

So Final level would be Base 2 + 1 + 2 = 5 and then bumped to level 20 for the minimum level for a Ritual Spell. If you used those "wasted" magnitudes to also increase the size, you'd end up with a Level 20 CrAq(An) Ritual Spell that creates up to 75,000 gallons of Tyrian purple dye in a container.

Given the value of Tyrian purple dye (worth its weight in silver in 4th century BC), sumptuary laws and the tight control the Byzantine Empire tended to exert over its distribution, the consequences of a single casting of the above ritual could see an irresponsible magus hauled before a Tribunal for one or more violations of the Code.

It's just a thought.

Casting it? No, nothing illegal about casting it. It's what he does with the resulting dye that determines that. There's reasons to make that much dye that aren't code-breaching, such as fulfilling a faerie bargain.

Or dyeing the sails of your gigantic flying fleet of ships. Why you have one of those, I don't know, where you got the vis, I don't know, but there's NOTHING in the code forbidding you from having one.


Now I want one.

That much dye, you could tint your entire staff and wash the walls of the covenant. Possibly as a display of wealth and power. Or personal taste.

Taste, insanity... what's the difference to an archmagus?

Please don't put words in my mouth. I did not say there was anything "illegal" about casting it. I only stated that because the ritual creates a large volume of an expensive and restricted trade good that it could get a magus in trouble at Tribunal if he was irresponsible with its use/distribution.

No one likes a half tinted staff.