Published: 16 Aug 2017

How gold is used in textiles

Beyond jewellery and investment, there are several fascinating ways that gold is used in sectors such as healthcare, technology, and cosmetics. Back in 7th century BC, gold wires were used by dentists to hold teeth in place . Cleopatra, erstwhile Queen of Egypt who was renowned for her beauty, used gold for facials and other skin care treatments . As a symbol of royalty and wealth, gold has always found numerous uses in the field of textiles-be it in weaving, embroidery, and printing. Here is a look at some of these uses:

  • The earliest examples of the use of gold in textiles come from the Rig Veda. It mentions Atka -a garment embroidered with gold thread. Another term Hiranyair Vyutarn refers to a garment which contains gold and reflects like the sun.
  • During the age of the Vikings between the 8th to the 11th century, gold thread was used to design cloaks and tunics in eastern and western Europe.
  • In the 14th Century, wearing gold buttons was considered an indication of wealth and social rank.
  • The use of gold in clothes has been mentioned in the great Hindu epics- Ramayana and Mahabharata. Hiranyadrapi, a shining cloak of gold, and Manichira, a south Indian gold fabric with a border of pearls woven in, are two such examples from these epics . Hence, the practice of using gold in textiles was as ancient as its use in jewellery
  • Zari, the gold thread, is widely used in Kanjivaram and Karnataka silk sarees in India. The term Zari comes from the Persian word for gold, Zar . Depending on how elaborate the work is, such a saree can cost anywhere between a couple thousand rupees up to 1 lakh.


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  • Due to unavailability of polyester yarn and synthetic zari, between 1960 to 1980 weavers used silver and gold thread for sarees. They used 22-karat to 24-karat gold coatings and more than 100 grams of gold. The pure zari thread of those sarees is still sought after today as it can be worth thousands of rupees.

    Silk Saree

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  • Being highly malleable and rust-resistant, gold can be hammered or pressed. Usually it is either rolled into a cord or pounded flat and wrapped around a silk or cotton core. Later, it is embroidered or tied into fine fabrics.
  • Due to its electro-conductive properties and biocompatibility, gold is skin-friendly and stable. Hence, it is used to coat yarns which then may be used to make brocades. Brocade is a rich fabric woven with a raised pattern, typically woven with gold or silver thread.
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