Silk Production

Silk production was one of their most produced and traded textiles, and by 1510, Venice became one of the centers of silk production in the Western world. Their outstanding production of silk flourished from the fourteenth century until the early seventeenth century. The lagoon’s high level of technical perfection of silk-making was due to the immigration of exiles from Lucca who were highly skilled in spinning and weaving. Raw silk was also imported from Syria, Turkey, and Persia. By the end of the fifteenth century, two thousand workshops were in operation, producing silk both for domestic use and for export.

Venice’s wealth and fame due their prolific silk production brought about several laws and regulations to ensure the quality and perfection of the silk. After 1450, laws were passed to prohibit the use of second-grade and waste silks in the weaving of drappi da parangon, or cloths of comparison, which included satins, velvets, and brocades. There were also guild inspections that had to be passed to ensure the use of colored thread markers to signify they were made from the finest silk threads, dyes, and weaving techniques. If the quality of making silk was not up to these standards, the silk would be confiscated, and the weavers and sellers would be heavily fined.

There were two types of silk materials, depending on the different grades of silk fibers. Seta leale, or “true silk,” was the most prized textile that was produced from “unwinding an intact cocoon in a basin of hot water to form one long, very strong, continuous thread which is a process called reeling.” The second type of silk, which was the less desirable fabric, was called “double silk,” which “was produced when two silkworms were put too close together in the raisings during their metamorphosis, and so ended up wrapped in a single cocoon.” This type of lower grade silk was demanded by entrepreneurs who needed it to produce fabrics at a lower cost for local and international consumers.

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