Owning a Kanjivaram silk saree is like owning a prized possession; physically and emotionally. Every woman donning a Kanjivaram saree looks ethereal at every occasion and if you have chosen a Kanjivaram for your special day, it is understood that that aristocratic piece of cloth will hold a special place in your heart for aeons.
As much as you would like to own a Kanjivaram saree, finding a genuine one requires a little bit of deliberation on your side. Everything that glitters is not gold. Likewise, every shimmery, soft, captivating saree will not be a Kanjivaram. In a world full of copies, looking for an original might seem like a herculean task. But fret not; let me elaborate few points that you could use to check for an authentic Kanjivaram silk saree.
1. The Burn test
Silk is derived from silkworms. That means it is proteinaceous in nature, similar to our hair. Burning a few strands of original silk will smell like burnt hair, whereas artificial imitations smell like burnt plastic.
Also, silk burns as long as it is in contact with the flame and extinguishes the moment it is taken away from the flame. Artificial substitutes of silk continue burning even after they are removed from being in contact with the flame.
Furthermore, the burnt silk will leave powdery ash when crushed between your thumb and index finger, while anything other than authentic silk will form an unyielding ball of burnt residue.
Following the above method may not be practical always. For the simple fact that you cannot actually waltz into a cloth Store demanding silk threads so that you can set them on fire; can you now? So, there are other ways through which you can check for originality of a Kanjivaram saree.
2. The Silk Mark.
The 'Silk Mark Organisation of India' has promoted a certification mark for pure natural silk textiles in India. The logo can be found in the hangtags or sewn in with the fabric. The ones in the form of hangtag are more susceptible to duplication and you need to exercise caution while buying such sarees. Each label has a hologram and a unique number printed on it. This helps in protecting the interests of consumers and manufacturers.
3. Know your zari
Though the Kanjivaram saree is woven from pure mulberry silk, its zari can come in many variations such as pure zari, half fine zari, fast zari and imitation zari. The cost of the zari varies according to the type of zari used
Real or pure zari is made from pure silver which is wound on a base yarn of silk and then electroplated with pure gold. Half fine zari consists of wrapping a silk yarn with copper wire that is electroplated with silver. It is then gilded to obtain a golden colour. In tested zari, copper wire is electroplated with gold. Fast zari has a polyester yarn that is gilded with copper and minute amounts of silver. Imitation zari is made by coating threads with gold coloured powder.
With so many varieties of zari that closely imitate each other, even a trained person will find it difficult to differentiate between them. Pure zari sarees are soft and smooth to touch and reflect light to shine brilliantly. The tested zari sarees are a little stiff to touch and won't flow as well as the puri zari sarees. If you cannot know the difference, you can always ask the salesperson in-charge.
Half fine zari sarees are inexpensive than pure zari sarees as copper is quite economical compared to silver. They're are also available in more wider tone varieties than the pure zari sarees. Half fine zari doesn't tarnish like the tested zari. Imitation zari or powder zari sarees tend to fade or turn black after few washes.
4. The physical attributes
A pure Kanjivaram silk saree uses three strings of silk fibre which makes the saree heavier. It might weigh anywhere from two kilograms or more depending on the amount of zari incorporated.
It wouldn't be an exaggeration if one said that the appeal of a silk saree can be majorly attributed to its unrivalled lustre. A pure Kanjivaram silk saree appears to change its colour when you change the angle of the light falling on it, whereas, artificial silk displays plain white sheen all over, irrespective of the angle of the light.
Kanjivaram silk sarees stand a class apart because of their bold, rich contrasting border, often embellished with a vast array of motifs that depict temples, animals, florals, vines, birds and zigzag lines; unique to the Kanjivaram weave.
The manual weaving of the saree adds tiny imperfections within the saree. These imperfections are unique to each saree. Because the body, border and pallu are in contrasting colour, they're made separately and then woven together in a tight weave called 'korvai'. This distinct feature is evident as a zigzag pattern at the junction of body and pallu.
5. The cost factor
Authentic Kanjivaram silk sarees are woven on a handloom and can take anywhere from ten days to two months to complete. In addition to this, the usage of gold and silver zari increases the price of the saree. Because of the use of copper, half fine zari sarees are economical than pure zari sarees.
As you go on your expedition to find a genuine Kanjivaram silk saree, you might get overzealous and think of procuring the saree directly from the Kanchipuram weavers, but the fact is that you can be conned there too unless you know the in and out of the trade. Perhaps, buying a saree from a trusted retailer might prevent you from falling prey to cheap imitations and save you the financial and emotional turmoil.