Rare Spider Silk Cape Shimmers like Gold

By Meera Dolasia on January 27, 2012

Word Search

Madagascar, an island country located in the Indian Ocean is known for many things - its namesake super hit movies, beautiful beaches, amazing wildlife and . . . . . . . Golden Orb Weaver Spiders. While these arachnids are similar to the rest of their species, they have one unusual talent - Their silk shimmers like gold!

It is this shimmer that first attracted textile artist Simon Peers and fashion entrepreneur Nicholas Godley to these tiny, almost blind spiders, about eight years ago. The two decided to embark on an almost impossible project - Creating a textile from this golden silk, using old fashioned weaving techniques.

While collecting enough silk from any spider is an arduous process, accumulating it from the Golden Orb Weaver Spiders is even more so. That's because only females produce gold silk and they do it, only during the winter months. However, that did not seem to deter the two.

To collect the silk, a team of 80 locals scoured Madagascar's telephone phone wires each morning, looking for the special spiders. Using long sticks to draw them down, the locals would bring the spiders to the workshop. Once here, a hand powered machine was used to gently pull the silk strands, out of each creature's multiple spinnerets. Once the silk had been extracted, the insects were released back to their natural habitat - And, the process would begin all over, the next day. 

Once enough silk had been collected it was twisted into individual threads by combining anywhere from 96 to 960 strands. Only then could the designer begin to weave the beautiful textiles.

In 2009, they revealed their first complete gold accessory - An exquisite 11ft. by 4ft. shawl. However, they were not done yet. Encouraged by their success, Mr. Godley and his partner embarked on an even more ambitious project - A full cape, embroidered with images of spiders, plants and flowers - A process that took over 6,000 hours to complete.

While the beautiful garment, which just went on display at London's Victoria and Albert Museum, is winning many design accolades, both Mr. Peers and Mr. Godley know that these are one-of-a-kind creations, that can never be mass produced. This unfortunately means that all of us will just have to be content admiring these beautiful masterpieces - Sigh!

Golden Orb spiders are a member of the Nephila madagascariensis family, which are prevalent in tropical countries. The tiny creatures that are small enough to fit on the palm of a human hand, are almost blind, which means they have no idea of how beautiful their silk is. To catch their prey they rely on their sense of touch to feel the vibrations of any prey  that gets caught in the web. The beautiful golden webs that can be found on telephone and electric wires are sometimes so big, that they stretch over entire roadways.

Resources: CNN.com,newscientist.com, telegraph.co.uk

Share by EmailShare on FacebookShare on Google+Share on TwitterShare on tumblrShare on StumbleUponShare on PinterestShare on RedditShare on Edmodo
223 Comments
to use your custom avatar.
  • kell-bell
    kell-bellMonday, January 6, 2014 at 9:42 am
    I watched a show about this. like not THIS but this.
    • awesome3000
      awesome3000Friday, December 20, 2013 at 12:52 pm
      beautiful!
      • zebralove
        zebraloveTuesday, October 1, 2013 at 5:14 am
        You know, Spider silk is stronger than steel!!!
        • parker818332
          parker818332Tuesday, September 16, 2014 at 4:41 pm
          yes i know
        • foxygalyo
          foxygalyoMonday, September 30, 2013 at 5:38 pm
          sweet this is awesome! :D i want one!
          • apeman
            apemanMonday, September 30, 2013 at 4:59 pm
            how weird because these spiders aren't new they have been around a while
            • otter
              otterMonday, September 30, 2013 at 4:34 pm
              thats really bright!
              • connwaer
                connwaerMonday, September 30, 2013 at 4:30 pm
                I wonder if the silk is durable. Wow!
                • zebralove
                  zebraloveTuesday, October 1, 2013 at 5:16 am
                  Spider silk is extremely durable, once you get enough of it.
                • yusuf120
                  yusuf120Monday, September 30, 2013 at 3:45 pm
                  wow
                  • panda_dimples12
                    panda_dimples12Monday, September 30, 2013 at 3:02 pm
                    OMG!!!!! Thats amazing!!
                    • perfect
                      perfectMonday, September 30, 2013 at 2:17 pm
                      Whoa...I want some!

                      Vocabulary

                      accoladesarachnidsarduousembarkentrepreneurprevalentscouredspinnerets

                      Geography

                      Most Popular Articles

                      World's Biggest Spider Weighs As Much A Newborn Puppy
                      Just In Time For Halloween - A Real-Life Ghostbuster!
                      Diwali, India's Glittering Festival Of Lights!
                      Russian Fisherman Catches Fish With "Human Teeth"
                      Just In Time For Halloween - A Real-Life Ghostbuster!
                      Making Sense Of The Ebola Virus
                      The World's Deepest Pool Is Scarily . . . Deep!
                      Minecraft As A Mandatory Subject In School? Sweet!
                      Boo Mania Sweeps Over America (And The World)!
                      Are You Ready To 'Gangnam Style'?
                      Video Of The Week - If Frozen Was A Horror Movie . . .
                      ALA