Silk History

Emperor Huang Ti

The discovery of the product silk from the silkworm occurred round 2700 BC. According to Chinese tradition the bride of Emperor Huang Ti, a 14-year-old girl called Hsi ling shi, discovered the invention of the first silk reel. Sericulture spread through China making silk a very valued commodity much sought after by other countries. In 139 BC the world's longest trade route was opened stretching from Eastern China to the Mediterranean Sea. It was named the Silk Road after its most valuable commodity. By 300 AD the secret of silk production had reached India and Japan.

Silk manufacture eventually reached Europe and America. During the 18th and 19th centuries Europeans produced several major advancements in silk production. By the 18th century England led Europe in silk manufacturing because of English innovations in the textile industry. These innovations included improved silk-weaving looms, power looms and roller printing. In 1870 an epidemic called Pebrine disease, caused by a small parasite, raged through the industry. Much research was carried out on silkworms during this time ultimately setting the stage for a more scientific approach to silk production. Silk production today is a combination of old and modern techniques.