When one goes out to buy a silk rug, one needs to be careful to look out if it is a genuine silk. Some dealers in rugs do not inform their customers that the rugs they are selling are not natural but synthetic silk fiber. This is not to say that artificial-silk rugs are not suitable. However, one should be aware of what he is buying. It is not acceptable to get the surprise of realizing this at a later point in time. If it is what you want, and can afford, then you can go ahead and get it.
Natural silk is produced by the silkworm which is also known as mulberry or Asian silk moths, (bombyx mori). Caterpillar of the silkworm spins the cocoon using a single unbroken silk fiber capable of extending as long as several thousand feet. Harvesting of the silk is done by boiling or heating the cocoon, a process that kills the silkworms. This is followed by a laborious process of unwinding them into fibers which are spun into yarn or thread. Silk is a protein made up of several amino acids including glycine, alanine, serine, valine, tyrosine and glutamic. The composition of these amino acids is 44.5%, 29.3%, 12.1%, 2.2%, 5.2% and 1% respectively. The tensile strength of silk is extraordinarily high than even that of nylon. Oriental rugs made of dyed silk are extraordinarily beautiful.
Artificial silk is anything that is said to be silk but it has not been produced naturally. This in most cases refers to mercerized cotton or a man-made fiber like rayon. It may also refer to chemically altered fibers. There is nothing wrong in using man-made silk in the manufacture of rugs, but it is morally wrong to sell these rugs made from artificial silk as those made of genuine silk.
A mature ball of cotton contains up to 5,000 distinct fibers of cotton. Each of the fibers grows from a small seed. The fiber is a hollow cylinder made of about 30 layers of near pure cellulose. Mercerize of the cotton fibers is conducted by stretching the fibers under controlled tension in room temperature conditions. His is done in a caustic soda solution of 21% - 23% concentration. As a result, the fiber swells. After this, the surface of the fiber becomes more reflective, and more lustrous. Its tensile strength increases too. The cotton yarn is then singed to remove any remnant fuzz from the fiber’s service. There are times the cotton fiber is calendared by passing it between hot rollers. This serves to enhance the sheen and luster of the fiber
Even with all the treatment the cellulose content of the cotton does not change. Rayon also contains cellulose, but it is not grown like cotton. It is developed by dissolving wood pulp or cotton cellulose to produce viscose which is a thick liquid which is yellow in color. This viscose is then strained through extremely small holes into a bath of chemical that turns them into long filaments that are then spun into yarn or thread. Rayon was the first fiber to be made by man. This technology was at first developed by the French people, and DuPont bought it from them, in 1920. The first name that DuPont gave the material was artificial silk. They manufactured the material through a company they formed called The DuPont Fiber Silk Company. The manufacture of rayon inspired the manufacture of other fibers. Acetate was manufactured from 1924 which was also made using cellulose. Nylon also known as acetate was produced in 1939 while acrylic made from acrylonitrile was produced in 1950. Polyester and triacetate were produced in 1953 and 1954 respectively.
Identifying a real silk oriental rug
Since, there are so many artificial fibers; it may not be easy to identify a genuine silk rug. The first thing to do is to give attention to the clues the rug merchant is giving. For example, there are many man-made silk Kayseri and Hereke rugs both of which are from Turkey. Silk is known as ‘ipek’ in Turkish language. Thus, a genuine silk rug is IPEK Kayseri. A rug made using artificial silk is called FLOS Kayseri. The pile of YUN Kayseri is made from wool. Therefore, it is easy to be confused by the rug dealer and buy a FLOS rug thinking it is IPEK rug. Therefore, it is extremely beneficial for any customer to be attentive to all the details of the explanations that are given by the seller. A little research on these fibers can help one in asking right questions.
Rug dealers from India is delicately careful similar to their counterparts in Turkey. They can in many occasions sell you artificial silk as the real one with the accompanying authenticity certificates and guarantees in writing. Artificial and genuine silk rugs have traditionally being sourced from Kashmir in Northern India. Take a careful look at the rug. You should look out for tight weaving with over 200 knots in each square inch and at least 500 knots. The details of the rug should be intricate and closely clipped. The fringe of the rug should be extended from the rug and not something that is sewn on to the rug. Many artificial, silk rugs often times have fewer than 250 knots in each square inch. The fringe is commonly an extension that is made from cotton. This is unlike in dependable real silk rugs that have a fringe made of genuine silk. In Pakistan, there are rugs referred to as JALDARS. The pile of these rugs is made of wool. They have a silk touch which means that these rugs are inlaid with artificial silk made of mercerized cotton. These rugs are also ivory in color.
Test for silk
It might be a difficult decision to make as to whether the rug you intend to buy is made of real or artificial silk. The following are the three tests that you can take to tell the difference. Rub it – it is claimed that by rubbing the pile vigorously of the rug with an open palm one can differentiate between artificial and real silk. Real silk feels warm while the artificial silk remains apathetic to touch. It is better own two types of rugs than to own one. This will make easy to make out the difference between the two. Burn it – cut off a part of the binding or pluck out a knot from the rear of the rug. Then burn it. The smell of smoke and the ash tell the difference in details. The smell of the smoke of artificial silk will smell like burning paper as cellulose is a component of paper. The ash is chalky and soft. Real silk turns into a crispy ash that is black in color. The smell of burning silk is like that of burning hair. Hair and silk are both made of protein. Avoid smelling the smoke of the match as this will give a different smell. Dissolve it – the best test is the one that gives the difference between artificial and natural cellulose. The dissolving solution is made of 16g of copper sulfate put in 150cc water. Add 8-10g of glycerin followed by caustic soda into it until it becomes a clear solution. Natural silk will be dissolved in this solution. However, cotton, nylon and rayon will not dissolve.
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