3Fur Fibers

3.1 Animal Fibers

The use of animal pelts or fur as clothing dates far back to ancient times. As early as 2000 CE, people in the Far East used animal fur not only as protection from the cold but also as luxury items. Indeed, throughout history, only the affluent could afford to wear fur. In addition to protection from the cold and display as a luxury item, animal fur has had other purposes. The ancient Egyptians believed that certain animals had magical powers and that wearing the fur of that animal transferred the power of the animal to a person. For example, in Egypt around 3000–300 CE, only the priests of a higher rank and kings could wear leopard skin during certain ceremonies during which it was believed the power of the leopard was transferred to them [1]. Leopard fur was considered to be so powerful that imitations were made by painting leopard spots on other fabrics; just as faux fur is made today.

Furs were prized by many dominant civilizations, such as the Romans, and it is believed that it was the Crusaders [2] who brought fur to Europe from the Far East along with other exotic items such as spices, perfume oils, and rugs. It is only in the last century that animal fur items have been available to the masses. When merchants began to gain more wealth during the Middle Ages, they began wearing the furs of ermine, mink, chinchilla, and sable. This offended the royalty who put forth sumptuary laws prohibiting the use of fur items by anyone other than royalty. ...

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