As a large and diverse seller of crafts and clothing in Thailand we have had exposure to both genuine silk worm thread fabrics and synthetic (fake) silks. We sell and promote both, mainly synthetics because they offer similar or better attributes than genuine silk, and the price is unbeatable. Synthetic silk comes in a wide range of forms, varying in weight, level of sheen, texture, hardness and many other attributes.
This guide addresses the situation on eBay where practically all sellers of synthetic silk are dishonestly claiming the fabric to be a genuine silk, this might be because they are unaware of the fabric they are selling, but in most cases especially for large sellers it is done knowingly. Sellers are able to get away with this because many synthetic silks look and feel like the real thing.
There are very few sellers who honestly and clearly state their items are synthetic silk, within eBay's competitive marketplace buyers will choose an item advertised as 100% silk over an item advertised as fake or synthetic silk (or rayon or polyester which are the common base materials for synthetic silk). eBay does not police this false advertising and because almost every buyer is unaware and/or unable to test for genuine silk the result is dishonest sellers are rewarded with high sales volume and great feedback, a heartbreaking situation for honest sellers.
When buying on the internet and on eBay there is a simple way to test that a seller is offering a synthetic silk, the price test. The production cost to produce enough genuine silk fabric for a small item such as a very small scarf or a necktie is about $5-10usd, for small garments like larger scarves or ladies blouses the cost is at least $20usd. Enough fabric for full shirts such as a professional long sleeve mens shirts would be at least $30usd, larger garments like dresses, pants or skirts can easily cost $50usd or more.
It is important to keep in mind these are the production costs, and do not take into account any middlemen, marketing costs, shipping, seller markup etc, in all commercial scenarios the consumer will be paying more than this. For example on eBay a seller listing small scarves or ties will be paying at least a few dollars in eBay and Paypal fees, so before adding on any profit their costs are over $10, if you are paying less than this excluding shipping you are buying a synthetic silk. For a larger garment like a professional shirt the costs are higher, any silk shirt listed on eBay under around $50usd will be synthetic.
Understanding these costs it is commercially impossible for eBay sellers to offer a wide range or regular supply of genuine silk garments at prices cheaper than this, except for the odd on sale or second hand item most silk sellers on eBay are regularly selling products at impossibly cheap prices, this is because they are passing off synthetics as genuine silk.
In most cases sellers blatantly lie and claim their synthetics are genuine, some are more creative and try to hide behind ambiguity, you will sometimes see silks being sold as a "blend" of silk and other materials, in almost every case we have seen it is not true, the fabrics are 100% synthetic with no genuine silk content. Thai silk is sometimes mixed with another fabric such as rayon or polyester, fabrics have a weft and warp (left-right thread / up-down thread), in a true blend one of these is genuine silk and the other a different fabric. To market such a blend as 100% Thai silk is not accurate, depending on the thickness of the threads they are closer to 50% silk. In practice these blends are still too expensive to match the pricing offered by almost all eBay sellers.
On a side note, claims are often for blends with natural sounding fibers like bamboo, cotton, or rayon which can be misleading. Rayon (or viscose) is a common base for synthetic silks and is laboratory produced using cellulose derived from wood pulp, cotton, bamboo, or other wood/cellulose raw materials, sellers claiming a synthetic silk as being silk blended with cotton or bamboo are basically lying twice, there is no genuine silk content, and the cotton/bamboo is actually rayon, which has been chemically altered to be so far removed from the original material that its simply a sales pitch.
To test if a silk you have is synthetic a simple way is to look at the weave, if it is absolutely perfect, no fibers or fabric bulbs or imperfections, then it is probably a factory made synthetic, even a profession genuine Thai silk will have little fluffs spots and imperfections. The burn test is another common method, there are many detailed resources for doing this on the internet, try searching for "silk burn test", however the price test should be your first indication of a synthetic, some synthetics have been made to look like genuine silk weaves, and some can even perform similar to silk in burn tests.
To claim synthetic silk to be a "silk" is misleading, silk must come from the silk worm or another silk producing creature. For our marketing, considering the current situation on eBay and the general markets acceptance of synthetic silk as "silk", we have chosen to express synthetic silk products as "silk" in their titles, then in the descriptions we clearly state the synthetic nature of the fabric. Our hope is to be competitive against less ethical sellers, while still being honest and respectful to our buyers. We also hope we can educate buyers about synthetic silks and the people selling them on eBay, perhaps the marketplace and consumer demand will convince other sellers to move towards more honestly representing their fabrics.
Soft Cotton Shirt Long Sleeve Euro Collar Black size S
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