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Explore the Distinctions Between Silk and Artificial Silk

Silk has always held a special place in people’s hearts, highly regarded for its luxury and nobility. It boasts a soft, smooth, breathable, and lustrous quality, and many others, that renders it a dazzling presence wherever it’s utilized. In the past, under strict social hierarchies, silk signified a unique status, and only a fortunate few could relish the ultimate comfort it offered. Today, thanks to technological advancements, we’ve harnessed synthetic fibers to emulate some of silk’s qualities, giving rise to artificial silk as an economical alternative. In this article, we will explore the differences between these two fabrics, encompassing their definitions, raw materials, production processes, and other aspects.

Definition

What is Silk?

Silk, in general, refers to mulberry silk, a natural fiber. Mulberry silk is produced from domesticated silkworms and boasts superior quality compared to other types of silk, such as tussah silk and eri silk. It is also suitable for large-scale production. Unlike some other fabrics, silk doesn’t require a chemical bleaching process but retains its natural white color. The quality of silk is characterized by its delicacy, whiteness, softness, and flexibility.

What is Artificial Silk?

Artificial silk refers to synthetic fibers deliberately engineered to mimic some of the qualities of silk. Among the more common types are rayon, polyester, and nylon, products of human technological prowess. These materials share similarities with silk, including a glossy surface and a smooth texture.

Raw Material 

The raw material of silk is the long fiber extracted from the cocoon through a series of processes. It is known for its strength, elasticity, softness, and luster. The primary component of silk is sericin, a protein, that makes it non-irritating to the body, and suitable for all individuals.

In contrast, artificial silk is typically produced from extracted cellulose, which is chemically transformed into synthetic fiber yarns that closely resemble the original polymer. Derived from biological can also be referred to as recycled fiber. For instance, rayon can be made from cellulose extracted from wood pulp, while polyester and nylon are petroleum-based fibers.

Manufacturing Process

The production of silk involves a meticulous and labor-intensive process. Silkworms are fed mulberry leaves, and once they reach maturity (which takes around 20 to 28 days), they create cocoons using silk glands – a process that takes about four days. Subsequently, workers follow a series of procedures to cook the cocoons, extract the silk, and perform other treatments and weaving to obtain smooth and lustrous silk.

Artificial silk, on the other hand, undergoes a complex process. Synthetic fibers are chemically treated and transformed into a viscous liquid. This liquid is then extruded through a spinneret, and after curing, it transforms into filaments that can be spun into yarn and woven into fabrics.

Characteristics

Appearance and Texture

Silk has always been known for its ultimate smoothness and softness, as well as its luster, luxury, elegance, and good drape. Artificial silk is said to replicate the features of silk, with a generalized sheen, but is slightly less so. The texture of artificial silk changes according to the qualities of the synthetic fibers used. It cannot have all the qualities of silk at the same time. Compared with silk, it is usually smoother, but the gloss is weak without the luxury of silk.

Breathability and Comfort

Silk is made of natural fibers that are breathable and even have thermo-regulating properties. In hot weather, breathability can help keep the air circulating and the body feeling cool, while in cold weather, it can keep the body warm and prevent moisture buildup.

The synthetic fiber and manufacturing process of artificial silk determines that it is less breathable and will give the body a stuffy feeling in hot weather, not providing the same comfort as silk.

Durability

The natural characteristics of silk require that it be carefully cared for, dry cleaned, or hand washed as much as possible, and there are requirements for detergents and drying methods to ensure that silk retains its qualities and lasts longer. Artificial silk, on the other hand, is usually more durable, less prone to wear and tear, and does not require special care to make it last.

Price

The art of silk production has inherited the wisdom of ancient civilizations, rendering it invaluable. Despite modern technological advancements, the process of raising silkworms and extracting silk remains intricate and influenced by numerous factors, with limited availability of raw materials. As a result, silk continues to be a luxurious fabric with a higher price point.

In contrast, artificial silk is machine-made and utilizes a diverse range of raw materials, allowing for more efficient production. It serves as a cost-effective alternative to silk, offering greater affordability and economic value.

Distinguish Between Silk and Artificial Silk

Accurately distinguishing between silk and artificial silk can pose a challenge for those who lack experience or knowledge about both. Here are a few essential qualities that can assist in determining whether a fabric is silk or artificial silk.

The first step is to examine the sheen and texture of the fabric. Silk boasts a natural sheen and feels smooth and soft to the touch, whereas artificial silk exhibits a milder sheen and less texture. It’s important to note that this method of distinction is subjective.

In instances where only one type of fabric is available, a combustion test can be employed for identification. Silk, being primarily a protein fiber, burns with a distinctive odor reminiscent of burnt hair and leaves behind a fine ash residue after combustion. Conversely, artificial silk, being a synthetic fiber, emits black smoke with a burnt plastic aroma when burned into a mass.

Silk and Artificial Silk: Each Has Its Merits

In summary, silk and artificial silk are distinct fabrics, each possessing its unique characteristics. Silk, being a natural fiber, offers a luxurious, comfortable, and breathable experience. On the other hand, artificial silk is a synthetic fiber that provides an affordable alternative while replicating the desirable qualities of silk. By examining the disparities between these fabrics in terms of raw materials, manufacturing processes, qualities, and prices, a deeper understanding of both can be achieved. When selecting fabrics, it is advisable to consider your specific needs to make a well-informed decision.

Sinosilk offers 100% mulberry silk fabrics, ensuring exceptional quality. Whether you intend to create clothing, scarves, or home furnishings, or seek a canvas for artistic endeavors, Sinosilk provides a wide range of options to fulfill your desires. At Sinosilk, you can find precisely what you are looking for!

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