The production of silk is believed to originated in the region of China, more than 5000 years ago. Silk fabrics were originally reserved for the emperors of China but the use later spread through China and other parts of Asia.
mulberry silk worms
There are a few different kinds of silk, distinguished by the kind of silk worm making the silk cocoon. Most common is mulberry silk, made from the cocoon of the mulberry worm. The mulberry silk worm has been cultivated in the course of thousands of years to produce a thicker and larger cocoon than the wild variants of the species, thus producing more silk. The relationship of the worm with humans is not unlike that of humans with animals held as pets or livestock, and Mulberry silk worms are unable to reproduce without the help of people as they have become too heavy to fly.
Mulberry silk worms solely feed on the leaves of the Mulberry tree.
mulberry silk cocoons
Silk is not a good option for those who are vegan as the cocoons are boiled with the worm still inside. It is however - if dyed naturally - a natural and sustainable process with produces almost no waste since the worms' manure is used as fertilizer and the cooked works are eaten by people. Silk production in Thailand also supports the local communities.
Distinguishing between real and fake silk is very difficult for the untrained person. You need to do a variety of test involving touching, hearing, burning and dissolving in copper sulfate to be sure. However the production of polyester uses petroleum and once discarded it is a problem in the environment, unlike natural silk.
Silk is a very strong fibre and can last a long time with garments passed on very generation to generation. It is not unusual seeing elderly Thai people wearing the silk clothes once belonging to their grandparents.