This section is from the "A Complete Dictionary of Dry Goods" book, by George S. Cole. Also available from Amazon: A complete dictionary of dry goods and history of silk, cotton, linen, wool and other fibrous substances,: Including a full explanation of the modern processes ... together with various useful tables.
Brocade. A fabric woven of any material or combination of colors, in which a design of flowers or foliage is inserted. Brocades in the olden time were rich fabrics, woven with gold and silver and silk. To prepare the golden thread in those days, a flat gilded ribband was used over a silk of the nearest possible tint to the metal, and the principal skill in this preparation was to have the circumlocutions of the metal around the silk in such manner that the edges were drawn as closely as possible to each other, without overlapping. The manufacture of these golden threads was brought to such a degree of perfection that they were in high favor with the public taste. There early existed in Milan, Italy, a great factory using a secret process which made a thread, only one side of which was golden. Ornamented threads of hemp and flax, and flat threads of copper were also made. The Chinese economically employed bands of gilded paper upon the silk, and sometimes used them without other support than their own fabric. But these were very ephemeral, and were rarely used except as tapestry or ornaments, as they needed constant protection from the moisture of the atmosphere.
Afterward, the foundation of " brocades " was of silk, relieved with flowers or ornaments of gold or silver, and later the name brocade was given to fabrics ornamented with flowers and other figures in which no metallic thread was employed. In the 13th century a large factory for the manufacture of brocades was in operation at Lucca, Italy, but the governor forced the workmen to abandon the city. Three hundred of them went to Venice, where encouraged by the offer many privileges, they founded a new factory. For a long time afterward the Venetian factory flourished and turned out immense quantities of fine goods. In the course of the latter century this factory invented a modification of brocade, and gave the name of damask (curtain) to the new fabric. This textile, although it contained but half the gold or silver used in brocades, showed a much richer and more even surface. The metallic thread was not passed round a thread of silk, but in passing the cloth between heavy rollers the metallic thread thus represented ornaments which had the appearance of brilliant leaves of gold or silver in a single piece, similar to the curtain damask of the present time.
This process was kept secret for a long time by the manufacturers, but the immense advantages accruing to Venice attracted the attention of the French government, which employed a celebrated expert to go there and ascertain the methods employed. The attempt of the expert was not fruitless, and factories for making the new brocade immediately sprang up in Lyons. There are many rich brocades of the original sort still produced in India, especially in the looms of Benares. These gold brocades are called kin-cobs, and in style and essential character are older than the use of silk in Babylona, Phoenicia or Egypt. Japan takes now as for centuries past, the front place in the production of figured silks of all kinds, especially gold wrought brocades, rich with flowers and other ornaments, figured damasks and other beautiful fabrics. There are two kinds made in Japan, gold thread brocade, and silk damask brocade, or brocade inwrought with flowers and foliage. Gold and silver is very largely used in the weaving of these fabrics. The Japanese have many proverbial expressions which show the high estimation in which they hold their brocades, such as: Kokioye Nishiki - or " Clothe yourself in brocade when you return home, Tzurure wo Kite mo Kokoro wa Nishiki - or " He wears rags, it is true, but his heart is of brocade."