Nail polish may have originated with the Chinese in 3000 B.C. The Japanese and Italians are thought to have been the first ones to use nail polish. The Chinese used a colored lacquer, made from a combination of Arabic gum, egg whites, gelatin and beeswax. They also used a mixture consisting of mashed rose, orchid and impatiens petals combined with alum. This mixture, when applied to nails for a few hours or overnight, leaves a color ranging from pink to red. The Egyptians used reddish-brown stains derived from henna to color their nails as well as the tips of their fingers. Henna dyes are used to draw intricate, temporary designs on hands in Mehndi. Chou Dynasty of 600 B.C., Chinese royalty used gold and silver to enhance their nails. A fifteenth-century Ming manuscript cites red and black as the colors chosen by royalty for centuries previous. The 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 finger and toe nails ruby red; Cleopatra favored a deep rust red. Women of lower rank who colored their nails were permitted only pale hues. Incas decorated their fingernails with pictures of eagles Some Native Americans had colorful nails. 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. In addition, English and US 19th century cookbooks contained directions for making nail paints.
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