Golden Spider Silk

A stunning and very rare textile, woven from golden colored spider silk is on display at the Museum of Natural History. The silk thread, produced by more than one million spiders in Madagascar has been woven into a contemporary textile measuring 11 by 4 feet, and took fours years of painstaking labor. The weaving technique was developed more than 100 years ago, and the exquisite textile was created by emulating the legacy of French missionary, Jacob Paul Camboue. Camboue worked with spiders in Madagascar in the late 1800’s. Although he worked to collect and weave spider silk, he had limited success and no surviving textile is known to exist.

To produce this spectacular golden silk, spiders were collected during the rainy season, which is the only time they produce silk. The giant spider webs are a well known attraction of the capital of Madagascar and a delight to tourists. Each spider produces about 80 feet of silk filament.  The very intricately woven spider silk textile features stylized flowers and birds, and is based on an ancient weaving tradition normally reserved for royal and upper classes.

The silk was collected from the female golden orb spider. This particular spider is renowned for the lustrous golden hue of its silk fiber. The golden orb spiders of Madagascar are found throughout the tropics and are referred to as golden orb weavers because of their large, golden colored webs. These webs are often large enough to span a one lane road.

Even though just about all silk fabric is made from silkworms, many people have attempted to make silk cloth from spider silk. Spiders are difficult to raise in captivity, however, so such attempts usually fail. Spider silk, for its weight, is stronger than steel. Unlike steel, it can stretch up to 40% of its length, making it an intriguing material for scientists. Many researchers are trying to produce spider silk for possible uses in surgery, space exploration, and a host of other industries that require high tensile strength materials.
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