FLOWERS, ARTIFICIAL. Imitations of natural flowers are sometimes made for scientific purposes (as the collection of glass flowers at Harvard University, which illustrates the flora of the United States), but more often as articles of decoration and ornament. A large variety of materials have been used in their manufacture by different peoples at different times - painted linen and shavings of stained horn by the Egyptians, gold and silver by the Romans, rice-paper by the Chinese, silkworm cocoons in Italy, the plumage of highly coloured birds in South America, wax, small tinted shells, etc. At the beginning of the 18th century the French, who originally learnt the art from the Italians, made great advances in the accuracy of their reproductions, and towards the end of that century the Paris manufacturers enjoyed a world-wide reputation. About the same time the art was introduced into England by French refugees, and soon afterwards it spread also to America. The industry is now a highly specialized one and comprises a large number of operations performed by separate hands. Four main processes may be distinguished. The first consists of cutting up the various fabrics and materials employed into shapes suitable for forming the leaves, petals, etc.; this may be done by scissors, but more often stamps are employed which will cut through a dozen or more thicknesses at one blow. The veins of the leaves are next impressed by means of a die, and the petals are given their natural rounded forms by goffering irons of various shapes. The next step is to assemble the petals and other parts of the flower, which is built up from the centre outwards; and the fourth is to mount the flower on a stalk formed of brass or iron wire wrapped round with suitably coloured material, and to fasten on the leaves required to complete the spray.
Note - this article incorporates content from Encyclopaedia Britannica, Eleventh Edition, (1910-1911)