Cloth Of Gold

Psalm 43:13 - "The royal daughter is all glorious within the palace; Her clothing is woven with gold."
Yep, this stuff is that old.

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Basic Information

Cloth of Gold is a textile fabric material with actual gold in it, usually drawn into a very thin wire and then woven into the cloth. There's a number of different methods and varieties (such as samite, marramas, and the related cloth of silver). If the gold is just embroidered into a small part of the material, such as the trim, that's technically something else entirely, and usually known as goldwork.

Cloth of gold is of course very valuable, especially when high degrees of craftsmanship are exhibited in the construction of the item and when paired with other valuable textiles such as silk. It's decadent stuff.

It's use dates back at least as far as Ancient Rome.1 It was popular among the wealthy and powerful of the Byzantine Empire and Italy in the Middle Ages. At some times and places (such as Tudor England) it's use was restricted by Sumptuary Law to only those who fit within certain special castes or classes.

It was woven into clothing, tapestries, baldachins, etc.

In 1520, Henry VIII of England and Francis I of France put on an incredible party to celebrate the peace between their nations, and their party ground was decorated with so much of this stuff it became known as Field Of The Cloth Of Gold.

If you burn cloth of gold with an appropriate set-up to catch the run-off, you can actually melt down and extract the gold and get rid of the charred unwanted cloth. Much of the cloth-of-gold in France was destroyed in this way during (and in the immediate wake of) the French Revolution.



Game and Story Use

  • Potentially a great treasure for your history or fantasy RPG. The PCs will look pimpin', provided they are legally allowed to keep and wear it.
  • May be hard to fence or pawn, given that only a few people can wear or afford it. It's also pretty much ruined if it's covered with blood, fear sweat, and the stab wounds that lead to you owning it.
  • Burning it to melt the gold may do double-duty of destroying the evidence and rendering it into a more liquid asset (pun intended).
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