The liaison between fashion and gold dates back—way back—well into the BC era of the timeline we know as history. Trade, economy, technology and aesthetics have all had their say in this story and what we have now is a delightful visual compendium. From mentions of Cloth of Gold on Roman headstones to the introduction of zari in Indian textiles through the Persian migration, usage of gold in textiles has undergone quite a historic and geographic journey, covering grounds that span through the rise and fall of great civilizations well into the advent of the Industrial Revolution. Here’s the TL;DR version of this history lesson.
That’s Gold’s atomic number in the Periodic Number. Physical properties of this element are usually listed as soft, ductile and malleable, which is why metal is used for both weaving and surface ornamentation. From drawing into the thinnest of filaments to being beaten into frail gold leaves, the many ways in which gold can be moulded and shaped to create artefacts ranging from jewellery to astronomical apparatus is truly worth marvelling about.
The year in when the World Gold Standard, the monetary system in effect until as late as before the WW1, was abandoned. The minting of gold coins in Britain and the rest of the world stopped long before. Guess they realised decadence is only apt in an Oscar Wilde novel, eh?
That’s how much gold has been mined since the early civilisations, according to the World Gold Council. That’s…heavy, phew!
And that’s how much gold we Indians hold, making us the top consumer on a global scale and one of the top 10 countries in the world holding gold reserves in their central bank.
Is when Persians migrants brought the gold thread weaving technique we now know as zari to India—around the Vedic times to give you some context. The technique of weaving gold and silver threads with silk flourished much later, under Akbar’s reign.
That is how long gold is beaten to create the thin leaf which is stamped on to the fabric. The craft is known as varak which is now so rare that all that remains of it are two practising printers in Jaipur.
The standard of measure for kalabatun (zardosi embroidery using actual gold filaments) is a rati which determines the quality and price of the garment—chaurati (four ratis) being the highest.
The year when the modern metallic fibre (now used in contemporary ethnic wear) was first produced by the Dobeckmum Company. Aluminum yarn served as the base back then but has since been replaced by stainless steel yarn and, more recently, aluminised nylon yarns marketed under the names Lurex and Melton. Contemporary kurtas and ethnic ensembles use these fibres to cut down on the weight and prevent tarnishing.
Check out contemporary reinterpretations of gold weaves here.