Sunday, January 27, 2013

Scarlet Nails

                                                                                                             photo by Imagine

 Many French women pay careful attention to their nails and have regular manicures and pedicures applied in a salon.  You know of the French manicure, pearly nails with white painted tips?  As the name implies, this is a popular choice in France when nails are varnished.    

Today's women who will color their nails tan, blue or black with a silver flash on the tip,  will still go back to red: crimson, deep red, scarlet .   Its classic, timeless.  

  This is Laurie who is still in high school but already adept at her chosen "metier" which she is allowed to practice, skipping classes several times a week to work at the Mary Cohr "Institut de Beaute" in Nice.   She is learning all of the beauty treatments from waxes to facials, but I think her specialty is nails.

   I think that for women, varnishing ones nails is still a symbol of elegance, freedom, femininity.... the aesthetics of being female in a world where you can now choose how you want to represent yourself at any age.

 Where do we first find red polish? It's older than you might think.   According to Wikipedia:

"Egyptians used nail color to signify social order, with shades of red at the top. Queen Nefertiti, the wife of the king Akhenaton, colored her fingernails and toenails ruby red; Cleopatra favored crimson. Women of lower rank who colored their nails were permitted only pale colors.

The Chinese used a colored lacquer, made from gum arabic, egg whites, gelatin and beeswax. They used mashed rose, orchid and impatiens petals combined with alum. This mixture applied to nails for a few hours, leaves a color ranging from pink to red. 
In the Chou Dynasty of 600 BC, Chinese royalty used gold and silver to enhance their nails. A 15th century Ming manuscript cites red and black as the colors chosen by royalty for centuries previous.
The Incas decorated their fingernails with pictures of eagles. It is unclear how the practice of coloring nails progressed following these beginnings. Portraits from the 17th and 18th centuries include shiny nails. 

By the turn of the 19th century, nails were tinted with scented red oils, and polished or buffed with a chamois cloth, rather than simply painted. 
English and US 19th century cookbooks had directions for making nail paints. In the 19th and early 20th centuries, women pursued a polished, rather than painted, look by massaging tinted powders and creams into their nails, then buffing them shiny.  One such polishing product sold around this time was Graf's Hyglo nail polish paste.
  Some women during this period painted their nails with clear, glossy varnish applied with a camel-hair brush.   When automobile paint was created around 1920, it inspired the introduction of colored nail enamels.    "

Despite my love of short red nails on the younger set, I most often leave my nails short and natural or with clear polish.  A day of inking plaques in my engraving class is enough to discourage any serious manicure.  

 But this week , as I am not doing a messy art project , I have painted my nails and my toe-nails ...bright red .  No macabre browns or maroon enamels for's scarlet or nothing....

but, hey, maybe in the summer I will go for blue again.  


  1. beautiful color ...and I like the blue you wear too.

    Vicki Karen

  2. My favorite nail color!