A Brief History of Artificial Flowers

Posted by Alex James on

According to various archaeologists it is believed that people have been replicating flora since the beginning of time. Replicas of flowers have been found in old caves. Even the Ancient Egyptians made replicas of flowers and leaves with thin slivers of horn.

It is believed that artificial flowers were first developed in China over 1,500 years ago. The Chinese made the first artificial flowers out of silk. Ladies of the Imperial Palace ordered silk flowers to be worn in their hair. The trend spread to the well-off outside the palace, and then further afield to Japan and Korea when new trade routes opened. The use of artificial flowers gained popularity in those countries and would eventually travel from the east to western societies.

Over time, other cultures and societies have made their own artificial flowers.

From the 12th century Italian merchants began crafting artificial flowers using silkworm cocoons and

Silk flowers became extremely popular as a result of this. In France during the 1300s the French improved the craft by using a better quality silk and thereby creating more realistic-looking flowers. By the 15th century, French-made faux flowers were considered the best.

By the 1800s, the French had introduced the trade to England and in turn the English would take the art of silk flower manufacturing to America where it would become a large industry and extremely popular.

The silk flower business slowed down for a couple of hundred years until the Victorian Era was born in the late 19th century. During the Victorian period silk flower bouquets and lavish floral arrangements of both fresh and flowers were extremely popular. Flowers were a significant part of everybody’s lives and the language of flowers allowed people to send messages to one another simply by sending a bouquet. Most of the artificial flowers were made with silk, but other materials were used to make them too, including velvet, muslin, satin, crepe, cambric and gauze.             

The manufacture of artificial flowers was an extremely time-consuming and skilled job that could take several years to train a new worker. Some of the work that didn’t require tools was done at home, often by women and children of poor families. At the height of the trade, the 1891 census reported 4011 flower-makers in London.

These beautiful silk flowers which decorated expensive hats and garments were often produced by sweatshop labour. The Children’s Employment Commission of 1865 found that most of the women involved in the manufacture of artificial flowers were under eighteen, with some starting as young as eight. They were expected to work between twelve and, at the height of demand, eighteen hours a day and the factories would employ over a hundred flower-makers at a time.

The finest examples of artificial flowers in the 1800's and early 1900's were manufactured in New York and Paris. As Paris was the worlds capital of fashion silk flowers that were produced there were had a prestige about them.

Legeron in Paris was founded 1727.

During the 1900s, artificial flowers were able to take on new forms. New materials became available like nylon, cotton, sateen, and paper which all became increasingly popular and so the industry was no longer reliant on silk. Even today there is continued trials with new techniques and materials designed to improve the quality of the artificial flower.

By 1920, florists were supplementing fresh blooms with silk flowers to make up for shortages when flowers were out of season. 

This video from the last flower maker in New York describing the Victorian craft of artificial flower making. M&S Schmalberg Inc have been manufacturing silk flowers since 1916.


Today, the term silk flowers, is still used to refer to artificial flowers even though the majority are not made from real silk. 'Silk' has now become a generic term. Most silk flowers are now made from polyester and cotton blend fabrics and he higher the quality of the design and material, the more expensive the flower will be.

Investing in a slightly higher priced bouquet is worth it for the sake of a more realistic appearance and premium quality silk flowers.

Most of the world's silk flowers are made in Asia in China’s Guangdong Province. New York and Paris still have a relatively small industry in the manufacture of faux flowers.

The silk flowers we see today are not just an artistic rendition of the real thing, the blooms look so real that many can’t tell the difference without a very close look. Great attention to detail is taken to ensure that the blooms are close to nature and are botanically correct even down to details of the stamens, leaves and calyx.

Silk flowers have come a long way since their origins over 1,500 years ago. We are proud of our selection of luxury faux flowers which we carefully choose for their beauty and natural lifelike appearance.

If you want flowers that will last and don’t want to compromise on beauty our premium silk flowers will not disappoint.  We want you to fall in love with silk flowers as we have.




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