The Golden Spider Silk Cape

The Golden Spider Silk Cape

Today’s post is not about jewelry – but I could not resist sharing the story of the golden cape.

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Golden Spider Silk Cape

Resplendent in a glass case in the middle of a dark room at the ROM, is a golden cape woven from the silk of 1.2 million gold-orb weaver spiders.

I am totally fascinated by the gold color – it’s shimmering but not sparkling – it’s almost glowing in a mystical way. The thread has not been treated or dyed and maybe the natural state gives it a depth and presence difficult to explain or describe.

For 3 years, a team of 80 people on the island of Madagascar, was sent out every morning to hunt the spiders, bring them back to the atelier only to harness them, 24 at a time, to a milking machine.   After 30 minutes of “spinning its wheel” the spiders are released back in the wild, having each produced 50m of silk thread. The thread is then woven and the fabric embroidered tone on tone.

Spider silk is as strong as Kevlar and lighter than feathers. If you are fascinated by spider silk, this Wired article will make you an expert.

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Unfortunately, the critters can't be farmed like silkworms because they are territorial and cannibalistic (the ladies eat the males and other weaker females) and no genetically engineered comparable product has been created yet. So it might be a while before we each get our own golden cape. I must confess that I’m not sure it could dissociate the beautiful garment from its creepy origin if it was resting on my shoulders.

Listen to  Simon Peers and Nicholas Godley share their passion and dedication to this project.


The exhibit “Spiders: Fear & Fascination

is on view at the ROM until January 6, 2019.

Image credit: Simon Peers, Nicholas Godley, Isabelle Fish, ABC

Artists of New York City

Artists of New York City

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