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Zari (or Jari) is an even thread traditionally made of fine gold or silver used in traditional Bengali, Indian, and Pakistani garments, especially as brocade in saris etc. This thread is woven into fabrics, primarily made of silk to create intricate patterns. It is believed this tradition started during the Mughal era. Today, in most fabrics, zari is not made of real gold and silver, but has cotton or polyester yarn at its core, wrapped by golden/silver metallic yarn.
Zari is basically a brocade of tinsel thread meant for weaving and embroidery. It is manufactured by winding or wrapping (covering) a flattened metallic strip made from pure gold, silver or slitted metallised polyester film, on a core yarn, usually of pure silk, viscose, cotton, nylon, polyester, P.P., mono/multi filament, wire, etc. Nowadays, it can broadly be divided into three types. Genuine zari is made of pure gold & silver, imitation zari is made of silver electroplated copper wire, and metallic zari which is made of slitted polyester metallised film. In ancient times, when precious metals were cheaply and easily available, only real zari threads were produced. Due to industrial revolution and invention of electroplating process, imitation techniques came into existence to cut the cost of precious metals. As copper is the most malleable and ductile metal after gold and silver, silver electroplated copper wire replaced pure silver. Various modern colours and chemicals are used to create/impart a golden hue instead of pure gold. The precious metals and copper too became dearer due to huge demand in various modern industries. Thus, a cheap and durable alternative was invented with non-tarnishing properties. Metallic zari came into vogue replacing traditional metals like gold, silver & copper. This non-genuine modern zari is light in weight & more durable than earlier editions. Also, it has the sought after properties of resistance to tarnishing and knotting.
Surat in the state of Gujarat on the west coast of India is the world's largest producer of all types of zari namely threads, cantile, laces, ribbons, borders, trims, fringes, edges, cordonettes, cords, etc. The art of zari making has been inherited from father to son for many centuries. It is recognised as one of the ancient handicrafts by the government of India. Women from different communities & artisans produce zari and made-ups for weaving, embroidery, crocheting, braiding, etc.
- Banaras brocades, by Anand Krishna, Vijay Krishna, All India Handicrafts Board. Ed. Ajit Mookerjee. Crafts Museum, 1966.
- Linda Lynton (1995). The sari: styles, patterns, history, techniques. H.N. Abrams. ISBN 0-8109-4461-8.