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What are the different types of silk fiber?

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In the commercial global silk market, there are mainly four types of silk which are known and produced. Among all this the mulberry silk is the most common one that contributes to more than 90 percent of the global silk production. Other than mulberry, some of the other commercially important silk varieties are Eri silk; Tasar silk; and Muga silk. Some other silk varieties which are produced in very specific regions of Africa and Asia are Anaphe silk, Fagara silk, Coan silk, Mussel silk and Spider silk.

• Mulberry Silk
The most common and widely used silk around the world is Mulberry silk. It contributes to around 90% of the global world production. Mulberry silk is produced by the Bombyx mori silkworm who feeds on leaves on mulberry plants. These silkworms are completely domesticated and reared indoors. This type of silk is popular in countries like China, Japan, and Korea. To obtain a smooth structure of silk, these types of silk worms need special care. The production process of mulberry silk is unethical in nature, because the cocoons of silkworms are killed in their cocoons to extract the long fibers of silk.

• Tasar silk/Tussah silk
Tasar silk also known as Tussah silk is a silk variety that is produced by silkworms native to India. After mulberry silk, Tasar silk is the second-most produced type of silk variety. The silk is extracted from a type of wild silkworm which belongs to the family of genus Antheraea.
Tasar silk have many varieties such as
• Antherae pernyi Guerin which is a Chinese tasar silkworm
• Antheraea mylitte Dury which is Indian tasar silkworm
• Antheraea yamamai Querin which is Japanese tasar silkworm

Among all these varieties the Chinese Tasar silk is the largest quantity of non-mulberry silk produced in the world. The tasar silk which is produced in Japan is green in color. Most of the tasar silk are of light golden or dark brown or copperish color. This is because of the tannin-rich leaves that tussah silkworms consume. The Chinese and Japanese tasar worms feed on oak leaves while and Indian tasar worm feeds on leaves of Terminalia and several other minor host plants.
Tasar silk is among the strongest fibers in the world; and is mainly used in furnishing and interior for making couches, jackets, sweaters, etc. Tasar silk is extracted by reeling the cocoons of the Tasar silkworm.

• Eri silk:
Eri silk is a creamy white-colored silk which is also known as Endi or Errandi silk. Eri silk is extracted from two domesticated species of silkworms known as Samia ricini and Philosamia ricin. Eri silk is commonly cultivated in India, Japan and China. The name of this variety of silk “Eri” is said to have derived from the Assamese word “Era”, which means castor plant.
This silk variety is also called as ‘Peace silk’ because it does not involve the killing of silkworms for silk production. The production process involves the spinning of silk from a cocoon rather than reeling. This process is done without destroying the worm and allowing them to emerge as moths and live a full lifecycle. The silkworms which produce Eri silk are called castor silkworms that are reared on the castor oil plant. Due to this reason, this type of silk is also called “castor silk.”
The fabrics which are produced using Eri silk are heavy and even more durable than those produced from mulberry silk. Even the appearance of silk is similar to the matt appearance of wool or cotton. Eri silk is used for making clothing and soft furnishing material such as curtains and couches.

• Munga silk:
The silkworm which produces Munga silk is called Antheraea assamensis which belongs to the same family as tasar worms. These silkworms feed on Persea bombycina and Litsaea monopetala leaves or on aromatic leaves of soalu plants. The Munga silkworms are semi-domesticated and are found only in the state of Assam in India. Muga silk is golden yellow in color and is known for its glossy texture. This is why they are also referred to as Assam silk. Muga silk is produced in very small quantities and is used mostly for the making of traditional dresses in the State of Assam itself. Other clothing items such as sarees and chaddars are also produced using Munga silk.

• Anaphe silk:
Anaphe silk is native to southern and central Africa and is produced by silkworms of the genus Anaphe. The silkworm spin cocoons in communes, which are enclosed by a thin layer of silk. These cocoons are collected from the forest by the tribal people. After which the fluff is spun into a raw silk that is soft and fairly lustrous. The fabric made from anaphe silk is elastic in nature and is stronger than that of mulberry silk. They are also called books and koko and are used in velvet and plush.

• Spider silk
Spider silk is a non-insect variety of silk whose fibers are soft, fine, strong and elastic in nature. Spider silk is produced from Madagascan species including Nephila madagascarensis, Miranda aurentia and Epeira. The cost of production of spider silk is very expensive hence this variety of silk is not used in the textile industry. The silk has good durability and is resistant to extreme temperatures and humidity.

• Coan silk
Coan silk is produced by a species of silkworm called Pacypasa atus. These silkworms are native to the Mediterranean bio-geographic region which includes certain parts of Greece, Turkey, Romania, and Italy. This variety of silk was widely used in Ancient Rome and still in the present time its production is limited. The silkworms that produce coan silk feed on leaves of pine, juniper, ash cypress, and oak trees. Coan silk is used along with other types of silk varieties to provide strength to the fibers.

• Mussel silk or sea silk
This variety of silk is not produced by silkworms. The mussel silk is extracted from bivalve which are found in shallow waters along the shores of the Italia and Dalmatia of Adriatic.it is produced by mussels found on the seabed, hence, it is also sometimes called Sea Silk.
This silk variety is being produced since the Ancient Greeks i.e. around the 8th century BC. The filaments produced by the mussels are combed and spun into a silk referred to as fish silk. It is known to be one of the most expensive varieties of silk. In the present time, the sourcing of this variety of silk is very difficult due to the effects of pollution in the sea. This silk variety is used to produce a fabric called Byssus cloth.

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