If you own traditional silk saris, you’ve presumably carefully wrapped them in a muslin cloth, and neatly stacked them in a suitcase with naphthalene balls. And that’s because you want to preserve the rich fabric and intricate work, so when that precious sari sees the light of day on special occasions, it’s as good as new.
But what if, after years of saving one, you wear it at a wedding, and someone points out that the Banarasi sari you are clad in is fake? To save you the embarrassment, here are expert tips to find out if the silk beauties you own or plan to buy are real or not.
Pure fabrics have a brighter look. To ensure you’re buying a genuine Kanjeevaram sari, scratch the zari on it to check if red silk emerges from the core. If not, it’s not a real Kanjeevaram weave. “You can take out the edges of the sari, if the warn that comes out is twisted and very soft, it’s real silk that you’re holding,” adds designer Gautam Gupta.
Or, reverse the fabric and if you see knots, you’ll know it’s pure handwoven. “Now designers finish off the back part, so the depth of the zari is the best way to check for authenticity,” adds Gupta.
On the reverse side, check for floats between the grids of warps and wefts on the sari. “Only a hand-woven Banarasi sari will have floats of such warp and weft technique. Another way to identify a real Banarasi sari is to check for six to eight-inch long patch of plain silk (extra selvedge in all Handloom fabrics) on the pallu,” says designer Rimple Narula. The motifs can also help you tell real fabric from the Chinese and Surat-produced replicas. “Original ones are likely to have motifs like amru, ambi and domak, which have been derived from Mughal patterns, and other such old Indian textile motifs that have been used by weavers for generations,” adds Narula.
Detecting a fake Chanderi can be tough, but it is said that if you carefully rub your hands over the silk, and if it sounds like walking on the snow, it is the real deal. “The sheer and delicate texture, light weight, and glossy transparency of Chanderi sets it apart from the textiles produced in factories. It has a warmth to itself,” says designer Aditi Somani.
THE FOLLOWING ARE SOME LITMUS TESTS FOR SILK TESTING
LIGHT-WEIGHT SILK: A common and easy way is the ring test as silk is naturally flexible and smooth. The condition here is that the silk should not be heavy. So, if you have a light-weight silk fabric, pull it through a ring. If it can easily be threaded and pulled through, it’s real silk.
LUSTRE TEST: The combination of threads gives a particular sheen to silk. The colour on the surface appears to change as the angle of the light changes. However, if the silk is artificial, it will give a white sheen irrespective of the angle of light.
BURN TEST: Now, here’s a test you might not want to try on your favourite piece of silk. But if you wish to, put a loose end of the sari through the flickering flame, if the silk starts to smell like burnt hair, it is genuine. Don’t worry you won’t end up ruining your sari. Fake ones mostly don’t smell at all even when you can see the threads burning. “This test works only with 100% zari. If there is polyester, then plastic will come out,” says Gautam Gupta. Here’s one last bit of information: If you are buying real zari, you can even ask for an authenticity certificate.