A banarasi saree is a creation of Indian craftsmanship everyone covets. A pure silk banarasi becomes an heirloom piece, it becomes the cherry on a cake for every dedicated fashionista. But today, thanks to industrialisation, the handmade banarasi can be now made on a machine. Therefore, to find the fake from the real has become more and more difficult today. The market is flooded with banarasi sarees that have never experienced the touch of a human being.
This is for all the real ones, for anyone who doesn’t sit at the same table with copies. How do you know which is real and which is not? Well, consulting all the experts and all our grandmothers, who have tales to tell about the golden era of silk sarees, we have compiled a list of tips to help you differentiate between fake and real banarasi sarees.
● Buti Lies in The Eyes of The Beholder
This might sound crazy but trust us, the number of butis on a banarasi saree is a crucial point when differentiating the real and fake. A very sumptuously woven Banarasi that has brocades of silk, silver and gold going all through makes up the butidar sarees. Due to the gold brocading being an obviously darker shade than the silver ones, this kind is also known as the Ganga-Jamuna. Many common designs and motifs make up this lavish piece of art that which features patterns such as the Angoor Bail, Gojar Bail, Luttar Bail, etc. So, they are common, easy to find and also easy to replicate by machines. But there is one catch: the number of butis by hand will always, always be lesser than what machines can do. According to women who have worn and shopped banarasi weaves all their lives, the real Butidar saree has a 1000 butis. Of course, this is an approximation, but the machine weaves will always look more congested.
● As Soft as Butter
This is one thing I feel like any novice would know and understand. Real silk is always, always soft. And a real silk banarasi will look and feel like liquid. Silk is an animal fibre comprised of proteins. The primary amino acid group contributing to the structure is fibroin in the centre and sericin as an external covering. The morphological composition of the fibre is triangular, the outer covering sericin which is more irregular is removed during the process of degumming, and therefore the internal layer has a smoother facade that mirrors the light more adequately than the commonly more rounded structures of the other fibres, delivering a glossy, soft and radiant appearance to silk. Since fake silk is made out of artificial fibres, they lack this obvious softness and radiance. When you touch one, you will immediately know through touch. Even by
looking, you can see how the light reflects off the saree. This is a quick way to spot a real from a fake banarasi saree.
● All That Glitters Too Much Isn’t Always Gold
Banarasi sarees are among the most expensive traditional sarees in India and very heavy because of its elaborate embroidery which makes them perfect for weddings, festivals and parties. The Banarasi sarees were formerly decorated with threads made from real silver and gold for royal families. For them to be affordable now for everyone, the threads have been substituted with coloured threads of silver and gold. But ever since more and more mainstream designers have turned to the traditional weave (for example, Raw Mango), weavers have been motivated to go back to the old days of using actual gold and silver zari in their sarees. Talk to anyone banarasi expert and they will tell you how real gold zari does not glitter but exudes a soft, dull glow. So, the best way to spot a fake would be to see how much the metal threads glow. If they are excessively shiny, it would mean they are not real.
● Too Much of Height Falls Short Here
The usual length of any saree is between nine to fourteen yards. A banarasi saree is actually shorter than most. So, when you shop for a banarasi saree, always look at how long it is. It is any longer than nine yards, it is most likely machine-made or not really a banarasi but maybe a Paithani (these kinds of sarees are usually the longest among sarees made in India). So, to quickly spot a fake, have the saree opened while in the shop. And when buying online, check the length mentioned in the product details.
● Bordering On the Same
While many Indian weaves have uneven borders, like Kanjeevaram sarees, a real banarasi saree will have even borders. By borders, we mean the lines that fall on the bottom and on the top. Traditionally, banarasi sarees have borders do not go beyond three to four inches--sometimes even less. If it gets any wider than that, chances are the saree is not handmade.
● Kaching Blinding
Price is a big giveaway for a banarasi saree. While real affordable options are available but even they do not come extremely cheap. A good saree will cost you at least 10,000 INR and a good banarasi dupatta will cost you at least 5000 INR and above. If you come across a saree with a price tag of 8000 INR, it is a major sign that the saree is not real. Some of the most exquisitely crafted saree will cost you more than 24,000 INR. When you look at the price, you will also see the quality. An expensive banarasi saree looks like water and feels like butter. And if you consider how it takes three weavers, 15 to 30 days to make one saree. Making the Banarasi saree needs teamwork. There is a lot that goes behind making just one saree. So, when purchasing a saree, you are not only adding a stunning saree to your collection but also helping all these weaving
At Shoonya, we offer real, handmade Banarasi sarees and dupattas at affordable prices. We only want the best for you and we also want to help all those weavers today who have not stopped making such beautiful things.