Cashmere. The word says it all. It sounds exotic to the ear. The word itself feels luxurious in your mouth. And “cash” is right there in its name, because you will be shelling out some cash to own anything made with cashmere. Even cashmere socks are super pricey. This is one of the world’s most luxurious materials and cashmere often makes an appearance in designer clothing. You know, the expensive kind. Anything that says it’s cashmere costs a lot of cash. But labels…well, they’re not always accurate. So how can you tell if a sweater or scarf is cashmere? How do you know it’s 100 percent cashmere and not a blend? How do you know you aren’t getting ripped off?
There is a way to know if your cashmere is real. Run a few simple tests and find out if you’re looking at the real cashmere or a clever lookalike. Because if you’re paying all that cash, you deserve real cashmere.
What is Cashmere?
Seriously, what is cashmere anyway? Why’s it so fancy? Cashmere is a type of wool but it differs a great deal from common sheep’s wool, which is the stuff you find in more affordable knitted items. Unlike sheep’s wool, cashmere is made from goat hair. The hairs come from a specific breed of goat living in a specific region of Asia. Because the supply of goats is so limited and has to be imported around the world from this location, cashmere is somewhat rare and therefore, more expensive.
The material is also hypoallergenic. People who are allergic to wool are not allergic to cashmere. It’s soft and smooth, it’s lightweight and warm and it really does look and feel amazing. For all these qualities, cashmere is considered to be a luxury material and it costs a luxury price. But before you pay that price, you want to know that you’re getting real cashmere.
Why Doubt Your Cashmere?
Why shouldn’t you believe that if something says it’s “cashmere,” it’s cashmere? Since the 1990s, some textile makers and clothing manufacturers have been mixing other types of wool into cashmere in order to make it more affordable to produce. The less it costs to make cashmere, the more profit there is to make off of selling items marked as cashmere. And as long as there is some cashmere present in the blend, isn’t that all that matters?
Not to you, the consumer. This is why you want to know if your sweater or scarf is actually cashmere, rather than a blend or worse, another type of wool altogether.
Testing Your Cashmere
There are several tests you can perform to tell if a material is genuine cashmere or not. Some of these can be performed before you ever buy cashmere. Others will have to wait until you own the cashmere because they could, in fact, do damage to both cashmere and non-cashmere garments. You don’t want to be accused of vandalizing clothing in a store, after all.
First, check the label. Clothing labels can be misleading but they do contain some necessary information as a matter of course. If you know how to read these labels, you will know what kind of cashmere you’re dealing with. Look for the GI stamp on the label to know if you’re looking at cashmere.
The Geographical Indication stamp shows that a piece of cashmere is genuine. This label indicates that your cashmere is 100 percent cashmere. This stamp guarantees that your cashmere comes from the actual region where cashmere goats live.
What’s in a Name?
Pay attention to how a product is labeled. If it is “cashmere touch” or “cashmere feeling,” it’s probably not 100 percent cashmere. An item may also be marked as pashmina or pashmina wool. This is a different type of wool that does feel like cashmere.
However, it is a completely different type of wool and it is not actually cashmere. Therefore, you shouldn’t be paying a cashmere price. Pashmina wool is exceptionally soft and does feel like cashmere. However, this wool is made from a different breed of goat than cashmere.
You may also see merino wool or merino wool blends marketed as cashmere. Merino is another high-quality wool that comes from merino sheep. Again, this material is soft but it is not cashmere.
Take a piece of the cashmere and burn it. Yes, that’s right. Place it into an open flame. A small piece of fringe will do. The cashmere should give off a pungent fiber smell. It should actually smell quite a bit like burned hair. This will damage the cashmere! The hairs will burn just as your own hair will burn, so this is an extreme test that you should only perform if you deem it absolutely necessary and only if you actually own the cashmere garment in question.
Real cashmere will sort of shrink up in the presence of a flame and turn into ashy powder. Synthetic wools, by contrast, have a more burning plastic smell and the fibers turn black and hard…sort of like plastic. This is how you can tell whether cashmere is or isn’t real cashmere.
Cashmere is handmade. It is woven by hand and therefore, has some imperfections it. Machine-woven items are utterly perfect. Hold the cashmere garment up to the light and look closely at the weave.
You should see small imperfections and irregularities. This indicates that your cashmere is genuine.
Hold the cashmere up to the light again, this time to check its thickness and its overall sheen. First, real cashmere should not be thin enough to see through in the sunlight.
Second, it should have a matte, flat finish. There should be no glossiness or sheen to cashmere. If you see a bit of shine to the material, this indicates that it contains silk or synthetic material and it is not pure cashmere.
Check and Check Again
When buying online, check the description of the item carefully for the fabric composition. There should be an indication of exactly how much of which material was used to create your scarf or sweater. When you’re shopping for items in person, check the label.
Though labels and online descriptions can be wrong, often you will find out this way whether an item is truly 100 percent cashmere or not.
Take a piece of the cashmere scarf or sweater in your fingers and gently wiggle your fingers for a few seconds. Remove your hand. Real cashmere will go right back to its original shape and position.
Anything containing synthetic materials will stay misshapen for a moment, with a visible “ghost image” of your fingertips still present.
Rub the cuff of the sleeve or the end of the scarf on your palm. Will it roll up easily? If yes, this is not genuine cashmere.
Cashmere will also pill when it is rubbed. It is made with animal hair, after all, and animal hair will scrunch up and form pills when it’s agitated. If this happens when you rub the surface of the cashmere, it’s a good sign that you’ve got the real thing.
How Can You Tell It’s Real Cashmere?
There are many little ways and little tricks you can use to determine if the sweater or scarf you’re examining is made with 100 percent cashmere or not. Use these tricks to make much better buying decisions. And next time you buy cashmere, you’ll know it’s the real deal.
Cashmere Mania – 17 Tests to Identify 100% Pure Cashmere
Moth Prevention – How to Identify Quality Cashmere
Pashmina – How can you tell if a scarf is Cashmere?
Soft Touch – How To Tell If a Cashmere Scarf Is Real