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.
Ermine. A small quadruped inhabiting the northern regions of Europe and America. The fur of the animal is snow white, with the tip of the tail a jet black. The ermine is a near relative of the weasle, the ferret, and the European polecat, all of which belong to the same genus. The ermine fur of commerce is chiefly obtained from Northern Europe, Siberia and British America, and is in great request. When the fur is prepared for ornamental purposes, the black of the tail is inserted at regular intervals so that it contrasts with the pure white. The fur, with or without the black spots, is used for lining and facing certain official and ceremonial garments, especially in England the robes of judges, hence by extension, the term "ermined" has come to signify one who is invested with judicial power, or with the office or dignity of a judge.