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Silk is produced by several insects, like silk worms but generally only the silk of moth caterpillars has been used for textile manufacturing.
There has been some research into other types of silk, which differ at the molecular level.
Legend gives credit for developing silk to a Chinese empress, Leizu (Hsi-Ling-Shih, Lei-Tzu).
Silks were originally reserved for the Emperors of China for their own use and gifts to others, but spread gradually through Chinese culture and trade both geographically and socially, and then to many regions of Asia.
The tradition of wearing silk sarees for marriages and other auspicious ceremonies is a custom in Assam and southern parts of India.
Silk is considered to be a symbol of royalty, and, historically, silk was used primarily by the upper classes.
Nonetheless sericulture reached Korea with technological aid from China around 200 BC, Silk has a long history in India.
It is known as Resham in eastern and north India, and Pattu in southern parts of India.
There is a surviving calendar for silk production in an Eastern Han (25–220 AD) document.
The best-known silk is obtained from the cocoons of the larvae of the mulberry silkworm Bombyx mori reared in captivity (sericulture).
The shimmering appearance of silk is due to the triangular prism-like structure of the silk fibre, which allows silk cloth to refract incoming light at different angles, thus producing different colors.
Muga, the golden silk, and Eri are produced by silkworms that are native only to Assam.
Silk is produced year-round in Thailand by two types of silkworms, the cultured Bombycidae and wild Saturniidae.
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Several kinds of wild silk, which are produced by caterpillars other than the mulberry silkworm, have been known and used in China, South Asia, and Europe since ancient times.