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Swiss boffins produce working cloth made of GOLD

Fairytale fabric used in ties, hankies: no parachutes yet

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Swiss government boffins, perhaps confirming certain views on the prime preoccupation of many in Switzerland, are overjoyed to announce that they have finally developed a way of making practicably useful textiles out of gold.

Thin gold wires and thread have of course been used as ornamentation on clothing and other textiles for centuries, but until now it hasn't been feasible to produce practical garments etc entirely of gold (so-called "cloth of gold" can't take any stress and is rough to the touch). Plainly this has been a constant irritation to the Swiss, as the scientists of their federal government lab EMPA tell us:

Attempts had already been made previously to create a gold tie using conventional techniques. A textile fiber was wound with the finest gold wire in the same way a guitar string is made. However material woven from the fiber had a rough, metallic feel to it and it was also not durable enough for commercial use. As a result it was only possible to make the freestanding front face of the tie in gold thread – those parts which were mechanically stressed, the knot and the neck piece, had to remain black.

That was plainly unsatisfactory, so the federal boffins got to work and developed a process whereby a block of gold is bombarded with high-velocity argon ions, causing gold atoms to fly off it in a plasma and coat a thread which is pulled slowly through the machine. The resulting thread is as strong as silk and seamlessly covered with a durable, continuous layer of gold. Thus far a kilometre of gold thread has been spun – lending a curious modern perspective to the tales of Rumpelstiltskin, the Emperor's New Clothes etc – which is enough, according to EMPA, to make three ties. However, they add:

A dozen more should be ready in time for Christmas. The first, worldwide exclusive series, tailored in the Zürich tie manufactory Hofmann und Co AG will be on offer to gentlemen with an exclusive sense of style at Swiss francs 7,500 apiece.

Each tie, according to EMPA, contains just 8 grams of the precious metal, which would fetch a bit more than $500 (say 450 Swiss francs) at current rates. There are also plans to make gold handkerchiefs. Perhaps unfortunately for the swankiness premium of these items, we should point out that though the gold thread is interwoven with silk to make the cloth, its core is not actually silk but polyester. The new Hofmann und Co neckwear is thus presumably the world's most expensive polyester tie.

It would also be possible, given that the new textile is as strong as silk, to actually make golden parachutes out of it for use by biz tycoons departing their companies abruptly. ®

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