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.
Cloth Of Gold. A splendid fabric of very ancient origin, first mentioned in Deuteronomy XXXIX, 3: "And they did beat the gold into thin plates, and cut it into wires to work it in the blue, and in the purple, and in the scarlet, and in the fine linen, with cunning work." Both round wires and flat strips of gold were early employed in weaving cloth of gold. In the latter case, the strips were wound round silken thread. Most frequently the gold threads were woven with a web of silk, but instances of stuffs wholly composed of gold are common. Some old historical writers, almost contemporary with the time of the great Jenghiz Kahn (1162-1227), the Mongolian emperor, state the latter had in his possession at the time of his death, "apiece of cloth beautiful beyond description, which he claimed was of pure gold, containing 130 shades of color." A shred of cloth of gold is still preserved at Leyden, Germany which was discovered in one of the ancient tombs at Tarquinii, in Etruria (7th century, B. C.) In this, tissue gold forms a compact covering over bright yellow silk. The use of cloth of gold in England was most profuse from the reign of Edward I to that of Henry VIII (1239 to 1497). The House of Commons, in the reign of Richard II (1350), presented a petition, praying that no knight or lady under forty pounds land by the year "do wear any precious furs, cloth of gold, ribbon of gold or silk, on pain that they lose all that they have." In the various wardrobe accounts of the sovereigns of both England and France, from this time forward, frequent entries are found of cloth of gold, etc. At a very early date in mediaeval ages, fraudulent imitations of gold threads were made from copper-gilt wire and from gold leaf hammered upon vellum and afterward cut into strips. The practice of covering fabrics with leaf-gold gilding had been sufficiently frequent as to call for the interference of Parliament. In England, in 1619, "the better to prevent the unnecessary and excessive vent of gold and silver foilate (gold-leaf) within this realm, none such shall henceforth be wrought or used on cloths, etc.," armor and banners excepted. However, but little attention was paid to this edict. Two years later, a Scotch law was passed "whereby no persons were to wear cloth of gold or silver, nor gold and silver lace on their clothes, nor velvets, satins, or other silk stuffs," except certain persons of rank. Heavy silk, inwrought with gold and silver, the richest and costliest which textile industry in general can furnish has always been used for ceremonial garments by the Chinese and Japanese, and for the furnishing for the richer theatres and temples. The use of gold paper in Japanese brocade, or cloth of gold, has recently awakened great interest with silk manufacturers in various countries. The paper is cut into narrow strips and is then either spun around silk thread or is itself twisted into a thread and woven in. The fabric in this way looks just as if it were inwrought with genuine gold, but differs in that it is cheaper and more flexible than the actual gold. From historical records it will be seen that cloth of gold has been, in nearly all ages, worn almost exclusively by the nobility and the church until within the present century, when in the cycles of fashion succeeding, it has been appropriated for various articles of costume worn by ladies in general. [See Brocades]