Cashmere is the fine under down of the Kashmir goat, Capra Hircus Langier. These goats live high on the dry plateaus that surround the Gobi desert, which stretch from Northern China to Mongolia.
The goats have a course guard hair that protects them against the harsh weather and a downy under coat which acts to insulate against the extreme cold temperatures.
Every Spring, each goat is combed by hand and the soft down is collected and then sorted by hand. It will take each goat, around four years to grow enough fibre for one cashmere sweater. Cashmere is very precious, the scarcity of the fibre and the hand work involved to produce a garment reflect the expense of the end product. As with all things you get what you pay for.
There are significant differences in the quality of cashmere. The longest and finest fibres are collected from the throat and the underbelly of the goat – these will command the highest prices. The lighter the colour the more expensive it will be – Mongolian white cashmere is considered to be the finest in the world.
Lower quality manufacturers use shorter fibre as it is cheaper and will be more prone to pilling.
Cashmere lovers know that with proper care and handling, good quality cashmere gets better with time and is the ultimate heirloom.