Cashmere wool, simply known as Cashmere, is a fine wool that is obtained from Cashmere goat/Pashmina goat. It has long been used to prepare luxury apparel, wraps, accessories, and upholstery. The word Cashmere was used for the first time by Europeans in the 19th century, when they visited Kashmir, and pronounced the place "Cashmere" instead. It was the 19th century, and the Europeans had visited the valley in search of the world's finest fibre, which happened to be Cashmere. It is this fiber that is used to make Pashmina shawls - the shawls which were owned by royals and the affluent noblemen in ancient times.
Source of Real Cashmere shawl
As warm as Cashmere is, makes it's apparent to one that its making is painstaking and labour intensive. after all luxury has never been easy. Ladakh region, North India, is the place where the Changthang area is home to exotic Pashmina goats. The goats, in order to survive a temperature of -40 degrees naturally grow a down fibre starting winters. It is this downfibre that helps them survive the harsh winter and keeps them warm and comfortable till the start of summers.
Onset of Summer
As soon as summer arrives, the goats appear more uneasy to the herders, as they keep rubbing their bodies with surrounding areas. A portion of their body wool is found around near shrubs, rocks, and bushes, where they have rubbed themselves to get rid of the fibre over their bodies. When their uneasiness becomes unbearable, herders call professionals, who comb off the rest of the hair from their bodies, making them relaxed. It is this fine, smooth, warm fibre that is called Cashmere. It is still in its raw form and needs processing. Processing helps make it cleaner, and ready to be woven.
Collecting of wool
Cashmere is collected in the spring season when the goats naturally shed it. It can be as early as March and as late as May. The hair is removed not by shearing, but by gentle combing of the hair from the goat's body.
Professionals visit Ladakh and use specialized tools for combing the wool off the goat's body. This hair grows back at the onset of winter. No animal is harmed in the entire process.
Is Cashmere expensive?
Cashmere is expensive as it is rare. It is grown by the Changthangi goat just once a year and has to be processed once a year as well. Also, during the processing, a lot of fiber is lost, reducing the fiber to almost half, and making it even more precious and exceptional.
For this reason, a number of traders and manufacturers prepared fake Cashmere, by either mixing nylon and silk with pure fibre, or softening sheep wool and falsely claiming it to be pure. But since we do not want the patrons of pure Cashmere to be cheated upon, we created a list of several tests that can be conducted on an already purchased piece to check its purity, or kept in mind while buying a new piece.
Real Cashmere will have a number of qualities. Here are some tests to check the purity of a Cashmere wrap or scarf:
Tests to check if Cashmere is real
Cashmere is soft
And this is the most basic property that this luxury fabric has. Cashmere will never be irritating to the skin. It is hypoallergenic and feels heavenly on the most sensitive skin even.
The GI Tag or Certificate
Cashmere will either consist of a GI tag, or its seller will have given you a purity certificate. If both of these haven't taken place during the purchase, then there are chances that your wrap is not pure.
Cashmere will not be too transparent
It might be able to transfer some portion of light due to loosely woven, but if the wrap or scarf is too transparent, chances of it being fake are more.
A genuine Cashmere wrap or scarf will have an uneven weave. This is because it being handmade. If the weave is too regular and straight, it might be made by a machine. Machine woven wraps are a mix of pure threads as well as a strengthening fibre, as pure fibre cannot bear the strain of machines. Hence handwoven pieces are unevenly made, which adds even more to the antique-looking texture.
Pilling is Natural
Cashmere will pill. And it is a surprise to many. Original Cashmere is a natural fibre. Hence pilling is a natural process if the wrap is real. If however, no pilling happens ever, chances are that this wrap is silk.
Burnt Smell of Hair
Cashmere gives a natural hair burnt smell if it is burnt. To test this, you can pick a fringe from the wrap and burn it. If it gives a smell like burnt hair smell, then it might be a real Cashmere.
Too much Shine
Cashmere will not be too shiny. Because natural fibre will never give out the artificial shine. If your Cashmere is too shimmery, there might be silk fibre mixed with it.
If you going to purchase a new Cashmere wrap or scarf, here are some things you need to look into.
Buying a New Piece?
Check GI tag
To preserve the art of handcrafting pure Cashmere, the Government of India (Under WTO) has established a quality check for authentic Cashmere that will identify products made from the pure fibre of Changthangi goat. Geographical Indication (GI) Label on Cashmere is a US patent stamp on the original fabric. If you are buying a scarf and it contains the GI stamp, it is 100% pure and real.
Certificate of Authenticity
If your seller is able to produce a certificate of authenticity with the scarf that you're buying, the wrap is pure.
Who is the Seller
Is the seller well known?
Does he have a large number of long term customers?
Does he have a positive word of mouth amongst customers?
If all these are positive, the chances of him being an authentic dealer are more.
Whether you already own a Cashmere scarf or you are planning to purchase a new one, be careful about who are you buying from. You are buying a valuable treasure. Never compromise on the quality. It is an investment of a lifetime. Pure Cashmere will last for more than 25 years. And you won't like carrying something fake for such a long time, would you?