Notes on Culture & Antique Art, Ethnic Decor & Vintage Fashion | Wovensouls Art Gallery

Confused About Classification! Silver or Silk?

Here is an exquisite artwork of silver thread … with a little silk woven in…so shall we classify this as a work of textile art or silver art?

Antique Silver Zari Benarasi Sari - WOVENSOULS Collection

Just kidding!

This is a Benarasi Sari from the early 1900s that has the silver sari thread woven all over the body on a silk base.

The source acquired this from a Parsi lady who had held on to it since her grandma passed away in the 1980s. Woven in Benaras or Varanasi, this amazing work has over 600 grams of silver i.e. over 80% of the weight of the piece! So my confusion is justified.

The exposed portions have been oxidised with exposure to the pollutants in the atmosphere and reveal exactly how the sari had been folded during storage! [I’d make a great Sherlock or at least Watson]

In my childhood I’ve watched many zari saris being sent for ‘polishing’ by my grandma and her sisters when the zari had darkened and a wedding was coming up! So I’ll just do the same when I find a use for this gorgeous treasure!


Too often I wonder at other people’s awesome luck – with no effort on their part they are lucky in games of chance and in games life plays. And I always envied them. And wondered why I did not have a similar spectacular strokes of pure luck coming my way! Self pity is always fun isn’t it?

But this morning as I think of this piece now in my possession, I am reluctantly compelled to dispel that self-pity…… and am forced to be happy about by good luck ….

Thankfully the artwork is enough to distract me from the endless self-psycho-analysis 🙂

See it on here.


December 2018


5 comments on “Confused About Classification! Silver or Silk?

  1. Vera Indenbaum
    December 11, 2018

    Hello Ms. Mishra,
    I enjoy following your blog, especially since I am interested in antique and tribal textiles. The current articles also very interesting for me professionaly. I am a textile conservator in private practice. You mentioned that the oxidized silver threads can be ‘polished’. Could you please go into more detail about how the silver threads can be ‘polished’ ? Thank you very much,

  2. wovensouls
    December 11, 2018


    I do not know the traditional process myself – but I have heard that they use a liquid that dissolves the silver-oxide layer that forms on the surface. This makes the textile look ‘better’ but it does not make it look as good as new. The people providing the service would come home to collect the sari and then return it back to us after the process. The ladies would then nag him a bit – saying that the gloss was less than they expected and this would be followed by his explanations about the quality of silver zari. Whether the nagging was based on fact or whether it was a ploy to negotiate the amount to be paid I don’t know :). But I do remember the saris smelling faintly of kerosene-like substance. These details from my memory are all very vague and not the scientific answer you are looking for.

    So I have sent the jeweller a message and hope that he will be able to give us some solid information in the next few hours.

    Am glad you enjoy the blog!

  3. Vera Indenbaum
    December 11, 2018

    Hello Ms. Mishra, Thank so much for your response. In my previous practice I used 50/50 % solution of distilled water and ethanol alcohol. Wipe gently with slightly wet q-tips. This process removes dirt and make the silver threads brighter, but it doesn’t remove much of silver oxidation. I will wait for jewelers advice.

    Best Wishes, Vera Indenbaum Textile Conservator in Private Practice 310 836 3252 Skype: vera.indenbaum


  4. wovensouls
    December 13, 2018

    Unfortunately the young jeweler did not know of any polisher. Will try other sources and add updates if I find answers.

  5. Vera Indenbaum
    December 14, 2018

    Thank you for your continued effort to get an answer.

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