Anyone thinking about buying a cashmere pashmina will be very aware that price varies enormously. Which then begs the question:
What should a buyer look for when buying a cashmere pashmina?
Before we give you our insider’s guide, it really is worth taking a whistle-stop tour of the fascinating process involved in producing cashmere.
So, the journey of each cashmere piece begins with the hardy mountain goats who survive in the high altitudes of the Himalayas. Here the climate and environment are perfectly suited to the production of the cashmere fibres. During the extremely harsh winters, the temperatures here can drop to as low as -20c and the food supply becomes very scarce.
This lack of vegetation prevents the goats from laying down fat. Instead, they produce a very soft, fine hair under their fleece which helps them to stay warm. Then when winter passes and temperatures begin to rise, the animals start to shed this precious hair. And it is from this hair that the highest quality pure cashmere is produced. The fibre of the young, female goats is said to provide the finest cashmere fibre.
The fleece is collected in March and April each year. It is an incredibly labour-intensive process. The traditional method is to hand-comb the hair (rather than to shear it). The next step is then to separate, by hand, the long from the short fibres into different grades.
Cashmere – The Grading System
The highest quality cashmere is usually produced using longer fibres. This makes for a more resistant yarn that yet remains incredibly fine and light. An exception to this is baby cashmere which, although having shorter fibres, is nonetheless of a superior quality. In addition, the shorter fibres taken exclusively from the neck and throat of the goat also produce a superior yarn.
A closer examination reveals that the cashmere fibres are, in effect, hollow tubes and much thinner than woollen fibres. This unique feature also allows the cashmere to provide warmth whilst remaining so beautifully light. The thickness of the fibre is measured in microns and ranges from 11 to 18 microns. (By way of contrast, the finest merino wool has a thickness of 24 microns).
So, now that we have a little insight into where cashmere comes from and how it is graded, let’s take a look at the key points to consider when buying a cashmere pashmina.
The Essential Guide to Buying a Cashmere Pashmina
Always read the label. Only a pure cashmere product should be labelled 100% Cashmere. At Scarf Room, our 100% cashmere pashminas all carry the Chyangra label (see above). This is a trademark awarded by the Nepalese government to producers who meet strict production standards. It is, therefore, a guarantee of a genuine cashmere product and has now been registered in over 40 countries.
Look for a label you trust. At Scarf Room, we have a strong relationship with our Nepalese cashmere supplier. When you see the Scarf Room label, you can be confident that you will be buying a premium product. We also offer a full no-quibble refunds policy. So, if you are not completely satisfied with your purchase, just return it to us, unworn, within 14 days of receipt to obtain a full refund.
Consider the knit. Don’t be tempted to buy anything that looks or feels thin or loosely knit.
Ask yourself – does the item feel just a little TOO soft? Be aware of anything that is super soft at the time of purchase. This could well be a sign of over-washing. Some companies over-wash their yarn to increase the soft feel of the cashmere, as consumers associate this with quality. In fact, very high quality cashmere softens over time.
Beware of pill potential. Lightly rub the surface of the cashmere pashmina with the palm of your hand and note whether any fibres begin to roll up or shed.
Consider colour. An intense and vibrant colour indicates that the yarn started off very “clean” in its raw state. This suggests that the dying process was of the highest quality. The rich jewel-like colours of Scarf Room’s 100% cashmere pashminas are a stunning example of this.
Look for cashmere that is double-ply. This simply means that two threads of yarn are twisted together to give a more resistant knit. Double-ply ultimately makes for a warmer garment and one that is less likely to become damaged. Brands should be clear about the ply count of their cashmere products. Scarf Room’s 100% cashmere pashminas are double-ply.
Find out where the cashmere comes from. The best cashmere is said to be produced in the very cold, mountainous regions of Mongolia, Inner Mongolia, Tibet, Kashmir and Nepal. Scarf Room’s cashmere pashminas are from Nepal.
Consider the thickness of the fibres. The lower the thickness, the softer the yarn. Grade A cashmere is usually between 14 to 15.5 microns, while Grade B is usually between 16 to 19 microns. The difference between grades makes a huge difference to the quality of your cashmere pashmina so it is an important consideration.
Ask for advice. A reputable company selling cashmere should instil confidence. Don’t be afraid to ask! Not all on-line companies have someone at the end of the phone. However, at Scarf Room we have a friendly, knowledgeable team who are available to answer any queries you may have before buying a cashmere pashmina. Please feel free to call us on 01253 733870 from Monday to Friday between 9am and 5pm. We really are always happy to help.
Ciao bellissime. A presto!