Cashmere is a natural speciality animal fibre, derived from the soft undercoat of a range of Asiatic goat breeds. The wool of cashmere goats has been processed into beautiful textiles since around 1000 BC in their homeland, the Kashmir Valley in the Jammu-Kashmir state of northern India. Nowadays, cashmere is primarily produced in China but other major cashmere-producing countries include Mongolia, Nepal, Pakistan and Iran. There are also large cashmere goat breeding farms in Australia, New Zealand and Scotland, where mostly white wool species are bred; the wool then being later dyed with colour.
The annual production of cashmere wool occurs in spring with their natural shedding. Their undercoat is combed, or in industrialised countries it is removed by shearing. The underside of the neck has the softest most luxurious fibres, because they are the finest and longest. 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 is what 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. One hundred per cent pure cashmere products are high quality, luxurious, rare, and therefore an investment.
Properties and qualities
Cashmere is known for its extreme softness, warmth and lustrous quality, a result of its extremely fine fibres. The fineness of cashmere is typically between 7 and 19 microns. In comparison, ordinary sheep’s wool has a diameter of 36 microns. This fineness gives cashmere its silky feel. The annual production of cashmere from each goat is about 150 grams, which is why it is considered to be so rare and therefore so luxurious. Cashmere occurs naturally in only three colours: white, gray and brown, but can be dyed any colour.
How does it feel?
Cashmere feels incredibly soft, silky and smooth.
Cashmere products should be dry cleaned.