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.
Tinsel. An ornamental fabric or cord overlaid with glittering metallic sparkles or threads. The name was formerly given to cloth of silk, interwoven with gold or silver threads, but is now always applied to cheap finery, glistening like gold and silver, but at the same time pretending a value and richness which it does not really possess. There lay no such insinuation of pretentious splendor in its earlier uses. In the 13th, 14th and I5th centuries, in Europe, by " tinsel " was commonly meant a silver or gold texture of great value and magnificence, and no man was permitted to wear such textures under the rank of a duke.