What is Pashmina?
The word has its origin in the Persian word ‘Pashm’ which means wool. However, over many centuries, Pashmina has come to be known as a special kind of wool which comes from the outer skin of the goats living in the high altitudes of the Himalayas. Pashmina scarf, stole, wrap, shawl and throws are hand spun and woven in Nepal and Kashmir in the Indian subcontinent. The pashminas from Kashmir are also known as Cashmere (the changed name of Kashmir). The words Cashmere and Pashmina have come into use as a substitute of each other and also together to express high quality of pashmina wraps. Mention of these shawls in writing is found between 3rd century BC and the 11th century AD. Zayn-ul-Abidin, the 15th century ruler of Kashmir, is known to be the founder of the wool industry. He introduced weavers from Central Asia. These shawls have been manufactured in Nepal and Kashmir for hundreds of years.
Napoleon may have started the pashmina craze when he presented the Shawl to his wife. Ladies of the 18th century court in France and St. Petersburg were enchanted by the regal feel and warmth of these wraps. Pashmina scarves, stoles, wraps, shawls and throws remain an essential part of a fashionable wardrobe, attesting to the durability and appeal of this classic accessory.
The goats bearing pashmina fiber are commercially reared in the Himalayas as well as now in Gobi Desert (in Mongolia). The weather conditions in Mongolia are similar to those of the Himalayan region, and are quite suitable for the goats to grow pashmina. Owing to availability of vast open grazing grounds to produce pashmina economically and commercially, production of pashmina in Mongolia costs less than the Himalayas. The quality of pashmina wool obtained from the goats raised in Mongolia is the same as that of the Himalayan goats. Due to ever increasing demand of pashmina and not everyone knowing about the quality of pashmina, quite a few imitations have also appeared in the market. Acrylic and viscose pashmina are two of the most common imitations of pashmina. The goats shed their winter coat every spring. Approximately 4 to 8 ounces of pashmina fibre is shed by each goat. It takes fiber of two to three goats to make one good quality pashmina shawl or stole. The pashmina fiber which is closer to the body of the goat is of better quality than the one on the outer side.