These two words have been widely misused. Many products sold under these names are simply woollen items. So what are cashmere and pashmina, and what is the difference between them?
Both cashmere and pashmina are wool – but not any old wool. They come from a particular type of goat – called a cashmere goat (not to be confused with the Indian state called “Kashmir”).
Cashmere goats are found only at very high altitudes. Cashmere or pashmina is the fine undercoat grown by these animals to save them from very low winter temperature. Goats shed this wool in the spring. An average goat yields about a pound a year of this very fine wool. This is then processed to produce Cashmere or Pashmina yarn.
There is nothing else quite like it. It is light, warm and soft like no other wool. Its low bulk makes it ideal for travelling with, and wearing it makes you feel like a million dollars.
But what is the difference between cashmere and pashmina? The answer is… very little – it is just a matter of the diameter of the fibre. Pashmina fibers are finer than cashmere (there are strict definitions for each of these fibres), so it is considered the better of the two. Apart from that though, they are the same sort of wool taken from the same sort of goat.
A lot of adverts confuse matters, especially because, in recent years, the word “pashmina” has been promoted much more than “cashmere” in the UK. Many people have been confused into believing that “pashmina” is simply a style of scarf or shawl – and so will pay lot of money for something made of ordinary wool, or even synthetic fibre. Don’t be confused though – both cashmere and pashmina come from a very particular source, and pashmina is simply the best cashmere.
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Anna "Mala" Murphy, founder of PashMala.co.uk