This type of silk was known as a lustring or lutestring in the 18th century. Delicate and lightweight, it was characterised by a lustre on its surface, and was considered particularly suitable for use in summer.
This example can be dated because of its resemblance to a watercolour design for a silk by the Spitalfields master weaver and designer James Leman, dated 1720 (E.4507-1909). He has inscribed it ‘silver lustring for Mr Alexander'. Mr Alexander would have been the mercer (silk dealer) commissioning the design. The type of silk, lustring, was specified at the design stage, so Leman knew that he had to produce a suitably delicate pattern. The fact that its pattern was to be created in silver thread would always have been specified at that stage too, as care had to be taken by the designer to produce a design that allowed maximum visibility of the silver on the front of the silk and minimum on the back, where it would not be seen.