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The Hidden Value of Silk

The Hidden Value of Silk

Long ago in China, if you smuggled silkworm eggs or cocoons out of the country, you’d be put to death. Makes those shirts and sheets seem more precious now, huh? Silk has always been prized; it has even been used as currency. Greek and Roman nobles valued silk so highly that they reserved it for themselves. But let’s clear up a misconception: Silk is made by silkworms, but the silk itself is actually never alive. Just as a spider spins a web, silkworms spin cocoons, which are collected and made into silk fabric. Because silkworm cocoons are small, collecting them to make silk fabric is very hard work; it’s one of the reasons silk is still relatively expensive. While we’re spinning silk facts: It takes 5,500 silkworms to produce 1 kilogram (2.2 lbs) of raw silk. A silkworm spins a cocoon around itself in three to four days, and 2,500 to 3,000 cocoons are needed to make just one yard of woven silk fabric. To translate that into sartorial-speak, about 110 cocoons are required to make a tie. No wonder they frowned on pilferage!

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