Cashmere is a highly sought after luxury product that comes with an understandably high price tag and we’re about to dig a little deeper to see why that is.
The current Cashmere goats name is derived from Kashmir, a Province in India that borders with China and Pakistan. Kashmir has been producing cashmere for thousands of years, most commonly used in their well known shawls. The cashmere products from this area first started attracting attention from Europe in the 1800’s, and then continued to spread throughout the world. Today the majority of cashmere comes from the high plateaus of Asia, major supplier countries being China, Mongolia, and Tibet.
The specialty fiber is collected during molting seasons when the goats naturally shed their hairs. Some countries such as China and Mongolia remove the fibers by hand with a course comb, while other countries like Iran, Afghanistan, New Zealand, and Australia shear the goats. Both methods are effective and from here the hair goes to be separated by a mechanical process known as dehairing, this is a very tedious process.
Today cashmere wool defined by The U.S. Wool Labeling Act of 1939 is the fine, dehaired, undercoat produced by Cashmere goats (Capra hircus laniger). The fiber should have a mean maximum diameter of 19 microns and the co-efficient of variation around the mean cannot exceed 24%. There also cannot be more than 3% (by weight) of cashmere fibers over 30 microns. This specialty fiber is not to be confused with the straighter and more course outer coat that is called guard hair. On average a cashmere goat will produce around one pound of fiber a year, of that only 4 to 6 ounces is the fine under hair used in the production of cashmere.
Cashmere is known mainly for its softness, and its insulation properties are often over looked. Cashmere fibers are highly adaptable, they have a high moisture content that allows insulation properties to change with the relative humidity in the air. This is what allows you to stay warm in the winter and cool in the summer; making cashmere great for not only clothing, but also great for rugs, carpets, bedding, camping, and sports equipment.
“Cashmere and Camel Hair Manufacturers Institute.” Cashmere and Camel Hair Manufacturers Institute. N.p., n.d. Web. 16 Dec. 2013. <http://www.cashmere.org/cm/general.php >.
Harris, Aisha. “Why Is Cashmere More Expensive Than Other Kinds of Wool?” Slate Magazine. N.p., 27 Dec. 2012. Web. 16 Dec. 2013. <http://www.slate.com/articles/life/luxury_explainer/2012/12/cashmere_why_is_it_so_soft_why_is_it_so_expensive.html >.