What are the different types of silk
Not all silks are equal. The most well-known and popular type of silk is Mulberry Silk - while it is an esteemed silk steeped in history as well as our preferred silk here at Gingerlily, it is not the only type of silk. There are actually several different types of silk, made from different sources and produced in different ways. In our latest blog post, we explain more about each of the different types of silk as well as why we think Mulberry silk is the finest silk to use in bedding and linens.
Mulberry Silk is the world’s favourite silk and accounts for around 90% of silk produced globally. It is so popular because it is thought to be the highest quality silk and is produced by the mulberry silkworm Bombyx mori.
Although Mulberry Silk is the most highly regarded, you can even find different qualities of Mulberry Silk. The good news for those interested in buying products made with Mulberry Silk is that it’s easy to sort the wheat from the chaff by taking note of the ‘momme’ of the silk. Momme is the measure of the density of silk. If your silk garment contains one ‘momme’ of silk, then you can expect to find 4.340 grams of silk per square meter of that fabric. Here at Gingerlily, all of our silk bed linen is made from 19 momme silk, which means you can expect to find 82 grams (or almost 3 ounces) of silk in each square meter of bedding. This is among the highest quality of Mulberry Silk that you can find.
If you’re looking for Mulberry Silk bedding, then pay attention to this momme count - you may think that you have found a bargain if you have sourced cheap Mulberry Silk bedding, when in fact the momme count of that bedding is probably between six and ten momme - which is far below the standard that you should expect.
It’s fairly common knowledge that many species of spider produce silk in order to spin their webs and wrap up their prey. As well as being a very practical material for the spiders’ themselves, the properties of Spider Silk could actually be very useful for us humans too. For example, Spider Silk is so strong that it’s tensile strength is actually comparable to high-grade alloy steel, and it is about half the strength of kevlar (which is often used to produce bulletproof vests because of its strength!). Better still, it is also 1/6th of the weight of steel, so it’s easy to see why this silk is of interest to researchers around the world.
So why isn’t this silk used more widely? At the moment, the simple reason is because it is difficult to extract and process substantial amounts of Spider Silk.
Sea Silk is an extremely fine, rare and therefore expensive type of silk. The history of most silks stems from the east, in countries such as China, India, Thailand and Bangladesh. However Sea Silk was first produced in the Mediterranean region. Of course being named ‘Sea Silk’, it is not produced by land species such as spiders and worms, it is produced by a specific type of ‘bivalve’ mollusc, known as the ‘Pinna nobilis’.
Unfortunately, this specific type of mollusc that produces Sea Silk has been threatened with extinction and it is only still harvested and manufactured by a handful of people in Sardinia. If you’re on the lookout for garments made of Sea Silk, then take a trip to Sardinia to search for Chiara Vigo, who is thought to be ‘the last surviving sea silk seamstress’. To give you an idea of price for Sea Silk pieces, a Sea Silk hat was put up for auction in New York in 2019 with a guide price of $5,000 - $8,000.
Tussar Silk is naturally gold in colour produced by several species of silkworm belonging to the moth family. These silkworms often live within trees in wild forests and it is mainly harvested in countries including China, India, Japan and Sri Lanka.
Tussar Silk is generally considered to be more textured than Mulberry Silk, which means the overall feel is less soft, but the main reason that we do not choose to use this silk for our bedding here at Gingerlily, is that Tussar Silk is not as durable as Mulberry Silk. That said, you can still find it used in garments and linens around the world. It is particularly common to find it used in the production of womens’ sarees.
Eri Silk comes from a specific species of caterpillar found in North East India as well as certain parts of China and Japan. This silk’s thermal properties mean that it can keep you warm in winter and cool during summer, however it’s not commonly the silk-of-choice for fabric production, simply because it is elastic and is also heavier than other silks.
Eri Silk feels more ‘wool-like’ and also blends well with wool and cotton, so you can expect to find it mixed with these more common materials in silk-blend items such as curtains, bed covers and quilts.
Muga Silk (An Assam Silk)
Muga Silk is known for its natural golden colour and is specifically from the Indian state of Assam. Steeped in its own history, this blend of silk was typically preferred by Indian royalty.
Like Mulberry Silk, Muga Silk is also made by silkworms, but these silkworms are unique because of their location in Assam and they are also a specific species of silkmoth fed on a strict diet of aromatic som and sualu leaves.
Because of this silk’s origins, it is commonly used to make products like sarees and other traditional Indian garments.
Art Silk (Bamboo Silk)
Art silk, also known as bamboo silk, is artificial silk and refers to any synthetic fibre which resembles silk, but is not actually real silk. Typically, you will be able to tell by looking at the label of a product to find out whether it is real silk or not, but if there is no label, then there are a number of ways that you can identify ‘Art Silk’.
How to identify artificial silk:
Cost - typically, artificial silk items will cost less. If the item is cheaply priced, then as a general rule the chances are that it is not genuine silk.
Colour - silk usually reflects some light and will be coated, meaning the colour will not look ‘flat’ and will shimmer. If the colouring of the silk looks like a flat, block colour, then chances are it is not real silk.
Smell - if you want to test whether silk is real, take a few strands of the material and set it on fire. When burning, it will smell like burnt hair - which is a very strong, unmistakable smell.
Invisible flame - when burnt, silk will also burn with an invisible flame, and the burning will stop as soon as the flame source is removed.
Touch - if you rub a piece of silk between your fingers for a while then the material will become warm. If it stays the same temperature, then it is not genuine silk.
It’s labelled as satin - satin does not mean silk. Some may get the two confused, but satin products are often far cheaper than silk products.
The ring test - pulling silk through a ring is a traditional way of checking its authenticity. The ring will slide smoothly over real silk, while fake silk will often bunch or get caught on the ring.