Have you ever seen a beautiful cashmere piece, like a scarf or jumper, checked the price tag, and be gobsmacked at how much it costs? I know I have. Which raises the question…why is cashmere so expensive? The reason for cashmere being such an expensive material is so important that we thought it would be brilliant to cover in this article.
Cashmere is derived from the cashmere goat which differs from the average goat both in its anatomy and rarity – which contribute to less than 0.1% of cashmere production globally. These goats live at a very high altitude and as a result, both the outer coat and undercoat are designed to keep the goats warm. There are many variations of the cashmere goat such as the Changthang also known as the Kashmir Pashmina, Inner Mongolian goat, and Tibetan plateau goat to name a few. The difference between these goats and the average goats is that they produce cashmere wool.
The cashmere itself is obtained from the undercoat of the cashmere goat which in contrast to the coarse outer coat, is comprised of fine and soft cashmere fibres. These fibres are combed from the undercoat of the goat to utilise although they are known to naturally shed in the warmer months. After collecting the fibres, the process of drying and looming (whether handwoven or machine) take place, and then transforming them into products such as shawls, jumpers and scarfs.
Cashmere as a material itself is extremely fascinating. Its excellent properties contribute to justify the price tag. Cashmere fiber diameter is about 12-21 microns – a scientific measurement unit to determine the size of extremely small objects, such as the thread’s diameter. The smaller the diameter, the finer the fibre is. It is often compared to lambswool fibres such as alpaca and yak wool. Whilst alpaca wool has a high average of microns – usually around 26 - cashmeres’ lower average allows it to be widely converted into finer pieces, usually known as Grade A cashmere. It’s a finer, higher quality of cashmere that can be developed into products such as ring shawl cashmere. This also applies to yak wool which tends to have an average of 18-20 microns. As the finer fibre products are more difficult to make with lambswool-based materials, therefore cashmere is the best option for such products. Hence, these products are sold at a higher price.
Further readings on Cashmere
1. Cashmere Basics 101
2. What makes cashmere so expensive
3. Differences between cashmere and shahtoosh wool
4. How to take care of cashmere products
5. Why aren't all cashmere created equal
6. From cashmere fibre to cashmere fabric