What to look for when buying Cashmere?

Cashmere Wool – What to look for when buying Cashmere?

Hardly any other material feels so soft and supple and keeps you nice and warm to boot. It is considered one of the finest fabrics of all and is associated with winter, warmth and high quality.

Nevertheless, there are some uncertainties and misconceptions about this fine textile. What exactly is cashmere, how best to care for it, and why is it worth investing in quality? Read here.

The fibers of the cashmere goat are one of the most precious natural wool fibers at all. No wonder there is trickery and cheating in the processing.

What you need to know when buying – and how to recognize good quality.

Cashmere - A rare luxury item

Genuine Cashmere is only available in very limited quantities and is therefore highly sought after. The share of cashmere in the global wool trade is only one percent.

The hair comes from the floppy-eared cashmere goat, or pashmina goat, which is native to the Kashmir region of the Himalayan plateau.

Its undercoat is much finer than that of sheep – the hairs are 13 to 19 micrometers in diameter – yet grow to 25 to 90 millimeters in length.

These properties make the cashmere fiber not only incomparably light and soft but also particularly warm.

The great demand for cashmere does not justify all means

However, the precious luxury good has a catch: The cashmere goats only give away very limited amounts of the fine undercoat – because they need it themselves in order not to freeze in the cold of the high mountains.

Only once a year, usually towards the end of winter, can the hair be combed out; each animal then gives up between 150 and 300 grams of its precious hair.

To improve this meager result, shearing is sometimes done several times a year and by machine – but this does not improve the fibers. On the contrary: Cover hairs are mixed in, the hairs grow shorter, and the quality of the cashmere decreases.

Beware of cashmere fakes and mixed yarns

Because of its rarity and outstanding haptic qualities, cashmere is correspondingly precious.

A kilogram of good raw cashmere costs around 270 – 300 dollars – depending on the quality of the fibers dyed and processed more than 380 dollars.

These are prices for fibers and yarns, not for finished garments. This leads to resourceful traders mixing the hair of the cashmere goat with wool from other animals, usually using wool from merino sheep.

But counterfeits made of synthetic fibers are also on the market.

The difference is often impossible for the layman to tell, and even the expert sometimes needs a scanning electron microscopes or using morphological analysis to detect the fraud.1

And so, year after year, more cashmere ends up on the market, even though the number of goats worldwide is by no means growing at the same rate.

Learn how to recognize Real Cashmere and distinguish it from counterfeits.

Real cashmere has its price - you can't always trust the label

Comparing a $75 and $300 Cashmere Sweater

It is obvious that, especially in the low-price segment, many cashmere goods do not come 100 percent from cashmere goats.

A few years ago, a consumer magazine had a dozen sweaters tested by a textile testing institute that were supposed to be 100 percent cashmere, according to the label.

The women’s and men’s sweaters cost between $80 and $120, so they came from the lower end of the price spectrum for pure cashmere sweaters.

The result: one in four supposed cashmere sweaters had an unacceptably high proportion of foreign fibers – for example, yak wool, alpaca fibers or merino wool – and, in the worst case, even synthetic fibers.

Textile labels such as “Cashmina” and the like are humbug or label fraud. Their sole aim is to deceive customers.

 * Disclosure: Links marked with Asterix or some picture links on world’s-finest-wool are affiliate links.  All our work is reader-supported – when you buy through links on our site, we may earn an affiliate commission. The decision is yours – whether you decide to buy something is entirely up to you.

How to recognize good quality cashmere

    Good cashmere costs money: sweaters under 80$ are almost always made of stretched or inferior yarn.
  • Touch
    Cashmere has an incomparable touch- with a little practice, you can recognize the fiber without looking.
    Cashmere is naturally creamy white to light brown but can be dyed any color. Yarn-dyed textiles are more exclusive than piece-dyed textiles.
    A burn test provides clarity: cashmere is hardly flammable, smells burning like burnt hair and leaves behind crumbly ash. If synthetic fibers have been added, the burnt yarn clumps together.
    Last but not least: Ask questions, and be persistent! If you sell good cashmere, you have all the right arguments.
    The textile labeling ordinance does not tolerate foreign fibers in “100% Cashmere” – this label is a good indicator but not yet a guarantee of quality.

Fiber quality and Sustainable Production

Mongolia's cashmere producers seek sustainable future
Cashmere Goats in Mongolia
Mongolian shepherds often live on the edge of a climate that is bearable for humans, and they have excellent knowledge of the land on which they live and the animals that inhabit it.

Fiber Quality:

Relevant for the quality of pure cashmere products is not only the purity of the fibers but also the length of the hairs. The longest fibers are the most precious because the shorter ones tend to come out of the twisted yarn and clump together into knots.

This so-called Pilling is an unsightly side effect that occurs mainly in low-quality textiles. Also of importance for the quality of cashmere products is the “thread-count” of the twisted yarn.  – How to avoid Pilling?

There are all variations, up to twelve-threaded and correspondingly strong yarns, which are used for heavy cardigans, for example.

Sustainable Production

The fiber and yarn selection is the essential criterion for high-quality cashmere – Furthermore, nowadays you should pay attention to fair trade and sustainable production of cashmere products.

Please consider the way of fiber extraction, the species-appropriate keeping of goats and reasonable payment of shepherds and workers in the production countries.

In our guide about Sustainable Cashmere Brands, you will find numerous producers who attach great importance to sustainable production and ethical working conditions.

Many of these companies source cashmere directly from the Mongolian Gobi desert and work closely with the shepherds. Fair wages, long-term contracts and decent working conditions are guaranteed.

The companies are committed to transparency, ethical practices, cultural preservation and environmental sustainability.

Cashmere is a complex cultural asset, and to a considerable extent, the purchase of cashmere products is also a matter of trust.

Specialists in the field of cashmere include, for example, Johnstons of Elgin, Loro Piana, JENNIE LIU, State Cashmere, NAADAM Mongolian Cashmere, or Cashmere in Love – CiL. Only to mention a few.

Because consumers are not 100 percent able to distinguish pure cashmere from stretched yarns, they are well-advised to buy cashmere from specialists – even if fast-fashion suppliers and department stores are tempting them with all kinds of budget offers, especially in the run-up to Christmas.

Read also about the Climate Change in the Himalayas and how it affects production of Cashmere!

We hope this guide was able to support you in making a purchase decision about cashmere products.


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  1. Wenyu Xing, Yiwen Liu, Na Deng, Binjie Xin, Wenzhen Wang, Yang Chen, - Automatic identification of cashmere and wool fibers based on the morphological features analysis, https://doi.org/10.1016/j.micron.2019.102768.

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