The horned cashmere goat has around 20 different breeds in a variety of shades of white, grey, brown and black. They belong to the same family as domestic goats, whose wool is not typically used for textiles. Cashmere goatsʼ wool has been processed into beautiful textiles since around 1000 BC back in its homeland of the Kashmir Valley in the Jammu-Kashmir State of northern India. It became a sensation in Europe when the General in Chief of the French campaign in Egypt sent a cashmere shawl to Paris at the beginning of the 19th century.
The cashmere goats originally roamed the Himalayan range of Pamir Mountains at altitudes of up to 5000m. China is by far the worldʼs leading producer of quality cashmere. Other major producing countries are Mongolia, Nepal, Pakistan and Iran. There are also large breeding farms in Australia, New Zealand and Scotland. Mainly white wool species are bred there and are then later dyed with colour. Cashmereʼs precious fibres fineness of between 12 μm and 19μm makes it both lightweight and great at storing heat. In comparison, ordinary sheep’s wool has a diameter of 36μm, the Merino crossbreed has 25-36μm, the lamb’s wool has 20-27μm and alpaca and merino wool have between 16μm and 23μm. Human hairʼs diameter is more than 30μm. The annual production of cashmere wool from each goat is only about 150 grams and is only produced in the spring with their natural shedding. Their undercoat is combed, or in industrialised countries it is removed by shearing. The downy wool is then cleaned by a machine to get rid of any top hairs or dirt and the fibres are sorted by colour by hand. This painstaking production process makes cashmere wool the most valuable and expensive natural fibre. To reduce the cost of materials, cashmere fibres are often mixed with other fibres and these percentages must be stated on the label. 100% pure cashmere products are high quality, luxurious, rare and therefore more expensive.