Originating in China over a thousand years ago and making its way to Europe via Damascus (from which it derived its name), damask initially referred to a type of fabric woven in such a way as to create areas of sheen in the cloth. When held to the light, the sheen in the fabric's texture created an intricate pattern that was reversible (i.e., could be seen on both sides of the fabric). The first damasks were usually monochromatic and made with silk, though this changed as other regions adopted the technique. The beautifully scrolled patterns we typically think of as modern-day damask are rooted in the Italian and French Renaissance, when nobles used heavy damask fabrics for rich furnishings -- curtains, wall hangings, and upholstery -- as well as for clothing. By the late 1700s, the French Lyons had become the leading city in the manufacture of these fabrics, with nearly one-third its population employed in the trade.