Everyone remembers the Silk Road from history classes, but by and large, that’s the last time they thought about it. But at Silk Therapeutics, we’re surrounded by silk day in and day out. It’s for good reason – silk drastically impacted the world we live in today. So we wanted to share its history.
Silk is one of the oldest biomaterials known to mankind. Its production began in China and has dated back to the 4,000 BCE. Unsurprisingly, high society had the monopoly on silk for many years, though eventually, it filtered down to other classes. In fact, until the Qing Dynasty (1614-1911), peasants weren’t allowed to wear silk. It also took on more dynamic uses during this time, such as musical instruments, bow making and fishing.
Silk was worth more than its weight in gold – in fact, silk became its own form of currency due its rarity and opulence. China had a monopoly on silk; government dictated that the secrets behind the production be protected by law. But in 300 CE, the Japanese obtained silkworms and learned the science of sericulture, also known as the cultivation of silkworms for silk production.
The western world finally had access to silk when the Silk Road opened in the 2nd century. This route not only opened trade for goods, but also ideas. Over time, Western cultures began to develop silk making practices themselves. France and Italy became two major silk production capitols in Europe during the Middle Ages. As in China, silk was seen as one of the most luxurious products available.
Silk’s position as a luxury item was reinforced by the Industrial Revolution. During this time, there was a massive boom in the textile markets as new techniques allowed for commoditization of many fabrics; however, silk remained an extravagance for many.
To this day, we still have revolutions in the world of silk. Silk can now be found in a liquid form – one of the keys to Silk Therapeutics’ success. The history of silk is long and impactful, but as we’ve seen in our lab, much of it is yet to be written.