Pashmina shawls are loved by women across borders, ethnicities, ages, and cultures. They are warm, light in weight, look beautiful and have one of the best textures for our fingers to touch. Moreover, they have also become a style statement and definition of classy for elite women.
The premium shawls have marked their way into the closets of locals of the town to the mighty and richest people of the world. Such is the magic of elegant and magnificent Pashmina shawls.
However, making one of the lightest and softest wool that is also extremely warm cannot be an easy cup of tea. They require a high level of skill and experience along with ample time to produce top-quality pashmina.
What is Pashmina made of?
The raw material used for the fabric known as pashmina comes from the fine undercoat of the ‘Chyangra’ mountain goat. The wools are collected from the upper Himalayan Mountain goats during the molting season when they shed their long winter coats.
Following that, the weavers separate the soft and much shorter undercoat for quality, comb it and hand spin it with traditional spinning wheels. The weaving, again done by hand, is on traditional looms. Interestingly, it takes up to three days to complete the process because of the delicate nature of the fine threads used to create the woven material.
Due to the fact that pashmina wool is obtained during a specific period of the year and from specific goats, and that they only produce between 80 and 170 grams every year, this wool is difficult to find. Furthermore, producing it requires a very delicate collection, spinning and weaving process.
Having such a complicated process to make it, along with having a low supply of raw materials and yet being desired by all makes it an expensive material. As a result of having such high value along with equally high demands have also proliferated a big market for its fake counterparts.
Today, there are many shops with low-quality or counterfeit pashmina shawls who might also trick us into buying one. So the big question arrives, how to identify pure pashmina shawls?
8 Tests To Identify Between 100% Original and Fake Pashminas
Probably the biggest problem or doubt to come into the mind when we go to buy a genuine pashmina would be, “Is it an original one or a fake one?” Sadly, it is not that easy to say either.
Thus, here are some tiny details on how to distinguish if the Pashmina shawl is 100% original or not.
1. The Burn Test
No! We don’t want you to burn your or the shop’s expensive shawl nor do we want you to spoil the shawl. However, if the shopkeeper permits, pick up one to two threads from the fringes without harming the shawl and ruining the fabric. Place the thread on a plate and burn it. After it burns, smell its odor and check the remaining ashes with your fingertips carefully.
Since the raw wool of Pashmina is made from a real, natural hair of the mountain goat, it would also smell like one when burnt. If the product is original, you will get a smell of burnt hair and the ashes would feel powdery. Even after burning it, a real pashmina material would feel like matte, quite similar to what it was before being burnt. However, if the product is fake it will feel like viscose (a semi-synthetic fiber).
Many vendors use this method to examine the authenticity of Pashmina shawls.
2. The Weave Test
Checking the weave of the Pashmina item is also a good way to check its authenticity. Pashmina wool is spun by hand as it is quite delicate. Since they are handmade, the weave should be uneven. Only a machine can get an absolutely even weave throughout a piece of fabric. A human will always create irregularities in the fabric. Thus, if you carefully examine the weave against the light, you can tell whether it’s been done by machine or by a person.
Ironically, the irregularity in the weave is a mark of real Pashmina products.
3. The Pilling Test
Nobody likes to have pilling on their clothes. Thus, it is usually the case where good products do not have pilling. However, it is exactly the opposite of Pashminas. If the Pashmina product guarantees to have no pilling, it should be a fake one. Pilling is a quintessential feature with an animal fiber material like Pashmina. As a result, the product is probably synthetic, if there is no pilling.
Read Also: A Complete Guide to Buying Pashmina in Nepal
4. The Rubbing Test
Rubbing the material is one of the easiest ways to identify a real Pashmina shawl. This other strange method is actually very scientific. Since, synthetic fibers like polyester or acrylic accumulate static electricity within, rubbing them against each other would naturally generate static electricity and attract tiny objects and dust. If seen in the dark, such materials would even create tiny little sparks.
In contrast, the original material that is made from animal hair would have low static energy, which wouldn’t generate sparks nor attract tiny objects. Thus, after rubbing the fabric you can say the material to not be authentic if they create sparks or attract tiny objects.
5. The Diameter Test
It sounds absurd and not very practical but if you really want to find the answers, you can check the diameter details of a Pashmina shawl. Knowing its diameter can be good proof of its authenticity. Pashmina fibers are finer and thinner than generic cashmere fibers. Most Pashminas fibers are 12–15 microns in diameter and cashmere fibers are 15-19 microns in the diameter. For better quality, the lower the micron count, the softer and lighter will the item be. Hence, this is also a good technique to identify or distinguish the quality of pashminas.
However, do keep in mind that the quality of a finished shawl is not solely dependent on the fiber diameter of the wool but also on the craftsmen’s skills.
6. The Shine/Sheen Test
Original pashmina shawls do have the possibility to have a little sheen in them, even though they mostly carry a matte appearance. As mentioned above, even the burnt Pashmina material feels like matte which it is because matte is a characteristic of real Pashmina. Since Pashmina doesn’t have a shine of its own, it makes no sense for your Pashmina shawl to give a glow and glittery appearance, unless it some silk fabric is added to it; which in any case would make it a fake product. Thus, if there is a lot of sheen on the fabric, it is likely to have failed the test.
7. The Glue Test
A branded or high-quality product would always label their products properly. Nobody would buy a luxurious or top quality product with a cheap-looking tag. As a result, an authentic Pashmina would almost never have their label glued to them. Since glues might come off far too easily, the labels are mostly stitched properly to show their level of quality and brand. Hence, if you come across a label or a tag that is glued on the Pashmina shawl, it should be a fake one.
8. The Test of Common-Sense
No dealer or shop-owner would want to make a lesser profit or be a loss. Hence it would make no sense if the Pashmina is much cheaper than the market price. When it comes to Pashminas, the finer the quality, the more expensive it should be. The seller cannot be making a profit if they were selling an authentic product for low rates. Thus, if the Pashmina being sold is far below market rates, it is probably not a 100% original.
These are some of the best methods to test the authenticity of Pashminas. However, with higher demands and rapid advancements in the field of material science, counterfeit products are also getting as better and closer to the real one. Thus, experience and common sense is always the best tool to test its originality.