The History of Goldwork

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King Roger II of Sicily’s Coronation mantle 1130-54

The first references of goldwork were found in the bible and the book of exodus. Although the origins of this ancient technique have been lost, it is widely believed that goldwork embroidery originated in China and spread across the world to Asia, India, and Persia, later reaching North Africa, Italy, Spain and Western Europe.

1550-1600 English embroidery V&A

Throughout history, gold has been a symbol of status and wealth. It was used to decorate the garments of the important and noble people like the Pharaohs of ancient Egypt, the emperors of Japan, and even the Pope!

wo different types of ecclesiastical vestments

Western Europe’s main use of goldwork was was amongst ecclesiastical vestments, church trappings, Royalty and rich aristocratic families.

Duchess of Norfolk,1500’s goldwork detail / Queen Victoria’s Cape in 1860

Goldwork is one of the oldest English embroidery techniques with records dating from long before the 10th century, and considered a great art because of it’s historical properties. It is the art of embroidery using metal threads or wires, often a term used loosely as it includes imitation gold, silver and copper materials. Only the first threads were made of pure beaten gold, which lost it’s popularity because of it’s expense.

Hawthorne & Heaney Goldwork

Today, goldwork is still an important element that decorates military and ceremonial clothing. During the craft revival of the 60’s and 70’s in the USA the old techniques of goldwork were used to create brand new, complex and innovative designs that are still used today in the fashion industry.

Goldwork at Dolce and Gabbana A/W 2013-14

Interested in learning this amazing technique? We have courses available for all levels! Whether you’re a beginner, or looking to extend your skills. See what courses we have available!

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