Cashmere is produced in many countries across the world. Sheltered within the Himalayas, is a unique breed of goat, the Capra Hircus, which is the producer of our beloved Cashmere. The breed of this goat if found in many some of the locations within the Himalayan region. As a result, a large number of countries in the Himalayan belt produce Cashmere fibres. Products like Scarves, Wraps, Shawls, Cardigans and Blankets made from Cashmere are one of the most sought after products available in markets today around the globe. But there is a small Himalayan region where in the finest of the fine grade cashmere is being produced by the Changthangi Goat which happens to be the finest cashmere producing breed of Capra Hircus.
Where does Cashmere come from?
A treasured and rare fibre, Cashmere is often been referred as fibre of Kings or the soft gold. With such remarkable qualities, cashmere really makes one curious about its production across the globe. Cashmere is majorly produced in countries like China, Mongolia, Afghanistan, Iran, Kazakhstan, Pakistan, Nepal and other smaller areas in Asia. Out of the above mentioned countries 75% of the world’s total production is generated in China and Mongolia.
Where does finest grade cashmere come from?
At an altitude of 15000 feet from the sea level and where the mercury falls below minus 50° celsius, seems hard to believe that a specie survives in that low temperature. That is where the rarest of the rare Changthangi goats breed, this place lies in between the majestic Himalayas and The Karakoram range and is called Changthang in the state of Ladakh suited in the Northern India.
Cashmere from highlands of Ladakh where Changthangi goats live in conditions where the temperature goes down to -50° C is superior to the cashmere produced anywhere else in the world and accounts only for 0.5% to 1% of the total cashmere production annually. This cashmere is of the highest grade quality, rare and obviously very expensive!
This is the cashmere of the greatest grade which has a diameter of 10-14 microns. It is the sub species of the goat that makes the difference between the Cashmere produced in Mongolia or China and cashmere produced in Ladakh. Cashmere produced in Ladakh is exclusively produced from Changthangi goats and is locally known as Pashmina goat locally. So we can easily say that Pashmina is the best grade variety of Cashmere. Cashmere produced in Ladakh is thinner with a diameter of 10-14 microns only while as cashmere produced in mangolia and other parts of the world is 16-19 microns thick.
The Herders of Changthangi Goat
The unfavourable living conditions of Changthang in Ladakh makes it impossible for people like us to inhabitate but the sturdiness of Buddhist nomadic tribes is such that they stand by such harsh conditions which seems unimaginable for us. For centuries these nomads have been travelling with their livestock and giving us the world’s finest Cashmere.
Who located Cashmere in Ladakh?
It was a Sufi saint, Zain ul Abidin who established Cashmere industry in Kashmir in the 15th century, the cashmere fibers were first discovered by a Sufi saint who came to Kashmir to spread Islam and ordered his followers to make a socks from this very fine fibers. This was gifted to the then ruler Zain Ul Abidin who liked the warmth, softness and heavenly touch of Cashmere so much that he ordered a whole set of traditional equipments from Persia to establish state of the art wool Industry in Kashmir.
The beauty of cashmere products was such that it spread across the globe in no time. Raw fibres were processed into Shawls, Scarves, Wraps, Cardigans and Blankets. European first experienced this product in “Kashmir” and coined the name Cashmere from there only. Kashmiri Shawls soon became the status symbol in the elites of the world, emperor Napoleon gifted his wife empress Josephine hundreds of Cashmere Shawls and she was considered to be the fashion icon of France.