Legend has it that while exploring the highlands of Mongolia, Marco Polo himself discovered ancient cave paintings that depicted domesticated goats along with their shepherds. This representation depicted the process of collecting the hairs off of goats and using them to create the warm wool. The highlands of Mongolia are known for their harsh winters and below freezing temperatures, making this wool both a blessing and a necessity. It was these paintings that dated this process back thousands of years. Biblical references to woolen shawls suggest the process even goes as far back as 3rd century BC.
Cashmere adopted it’s name from the region of Kashmir India, where the fibers were first processed into the precious fabric. Although since then, the process in India has not evolved to the standards of those in other parts of the world. However, the Pashmina still remains both one of the most popular exports as well as a popular tourist souvenir.
The current largest producer of raw cashmere is China, with an estimated 10,000 metric tons of hair each year. Following in a close second is Mongolia with about 7,400 tons. This is particularly interesting given the vast size of China, compared to that of Mongolia. Cashmere is Mongolia’s largest export, and remains to be one of the highest contributors to the Mongolian economy.
Trading commercial quantities of cashmere made it’s way to Europe in the 19th century. France being the first to trade with Asia, claims the title of the first European cashmere. Today, some of the most popular factories that are famous for turning the precious wool into garments are located in Europe, most notably in Italy and Scotland.
Today, cashmere can be found all over the world. Cashmere comes in many different qualities, origins and price ranges. Whether your cashmere is from the highlands of Mongolia or from the markets of the Italian peninsula, it is a gorgeous and timeless addition to any wardrobe.
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