Weddings, Passion and Monsters, the Global Power of Red

By Sotheby's
Ahead of Sotheby's upcoming sale, Jewels Online: The Red Gem Edit opening from 25 January until 1 February, discover some of the myriad associations with the colour red across the world.

C hoosing the right colour is a vital part of buying jewellery, but the same colour can have different meanings in different places:


In China red has extremely positive associations. It’s associated with good fortune and is used to ward off evil and bad luck. These associations are connected with the legend of the Nian, a fearsome monster that would eat livestock and even carry off children around the New Year.

Red Chinese New Year Costume

According to the legend, it was learned that the Nian was afraid of fire, noise and the colour red, and with this knowledge, a group of villagers were able to defeat it.

You’ll notice that Chinese New Year celebrations include plenty of fire (fireworks), noise (gongs) and red clothes and lanterns.


In Thailand, each day of the week is associated with its own colour.

Red is associated with Sunday and the solar god Surya, who legend has it was born on this day. If you are born on a Sunday in Thailand, red is considered to be your lucky colour.

United States and Western Europe

In Western Europe and the United States, red is associated with love, romance and passion, as well as danger.

ENFE27 New York, NY, USA. 4th May, 2015. Jessica Hart at arrivals for 'CHINA: Through The Looking Glass' Opening Night Met Gala - Part 1, The Metropolitan Museum of Art Costume Institute, New York, NY May 4, 2015. Credit: Gregorio T. Binuya/Everett Collection/Alamy Live News Alamy Stock Photo

You’ll find the colour red used particularly in Valentine’s Day cards and gifts, as well as warning signs and traffic lights!


Red is one of the most significant colours in Indian culture, and is particularly associated with new life and the rising sun.

An Indian bride in a red saree with henna hand decoration Alamy Stock Photo

As a result, it's commonly used at weddings: bridal outfits are often red, and brides wear red henna on their hands and the red powder sindoor along their hairline.


In Japan, red is considered the colour of life and passion, and as a result it's traditionally worn at weddings and festivals.

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