Elizabeth Taylor will be remembered for many things her passionate performances in films, fondness for expensive jewelry, multiple marriages and, of course, those famous violet eyes.
Thanks to colored contact lenses, anyone can have violet-colored eyes these days. Taylor didn’t come by her purple peepers that way; the first tinted contact lenses weren’t commercially available until 1983. Taylor’s eye color was the real deal.
The appearance of the iris the colored ring that’s around the eye’s black pupil depends on how much of the natural pigment melanin it contains. The more melanin in your iris, the darker your eyes will look (melanin levels are determined by your genes ). For example, the irises of a person with dark brown eyes have more melanin than the eyes of a green-eyed person. Taylor’s eyes had a very specific, and rare, amount of melanin, but it was roughly the same as a person with blue eyes.
“There are various shades of blues and grays, with many in-between. Violet may have been her typical pigmentation,” Norman Saffra, chairman of the ophthalmology department at the Maimonides Medical Center in Brooklyn, N.Y., told Life’s Little Mysteries. “It’s possible to have that eye color it all depends on the amount of melanin.”
Eye color can also appear to change based on the eye’s light absorption , Saffra said. For example, wearing a white shirt will reflect light off of the iris and make its color look slightly lighter.
Makeup can also “bring out” certain colors in the eyes. Taylor was often photographed wearing blue or purple eye shadow to compliment her eyes’ naturally violet hue, or dark brown eye shadow and black eyeliner to contrast against and play up their unique color.