Pashmina refers to a type of fine Cashmere wool and the textiles made from it. The name comes from Pashmineh, made from Urdu and Persian pashm ("wool"). The wool comes from changthangi or Pashmina goat, which is a special breed of goat indigenous to high altitudes of the Himalayas in India. Pashmina shawls are hand spun, hand woven and hand-embroidered in Kashmir, and made from the finest cashmere fiber.
The fiber is also known as pashm or Pashmina for its use in the handmade shawls of Kashmir. The woolen shawls made from wool in Kashmir find written mention in Indian texts between 3rd century BC and the 11th century AD. However, the founder of the cashmere wool industry is traditionally held to be the 15th century ruler of Kashmir, Zayn-ul-Abidin, who introduced weavers from Central Asia.
History of Pashmina in Kashmir »
In fact, Kashmir, from where the Pashmina originated, has always been famous for its craftsmanship. For a long time, Kashmir was the only place the fiber could be woven into shawls because of the treaties which gave the Maharaja of Kashmir the sole right over Tibet's Pashmina supply. This allowed the cottage industry and art of Pashmina-making to flourish even more. Production also benefited from the patronage of the Mughal rulers like Akbar and his successors, and also because of the patronage of the local government.
Popularity of Pashminas in the rest of the world »
When the Mughal Empire collapsed, it was followed by an increase in demand from Europe, where the shawls became popular in the latter part of the 1700s. In fact, so much was the beauty and luxury of Pashmina that its fame spread all over the world, adorning courts from Asia and Europe. It was found in the palaces of Caesar and was the favorite of the French queen, Marie Antoinette. The Emperor and conqueror Napoleon was so impressed with the unparalleled quality of the Pashmina that he presented it to woo Josephine. This further spurred the rage in France, where foreign entrepreneurs started to commission shawls for the French market. Subsequently, the European market for shawls collapsed in 1870 due to factors such as changing tastes, competition from Paisley shawls and economic stagnation of France. The Kashmir weavers then started producing shawls for tourists and colonizers such as the British in India.
Genuineness of Pashmina »
Cashmere shawls have been manufactured in Kashmir for thousands of years. The test for a quality Pashmina is warmth and feel. Pashmina and Cashmere are derived from same mountain goats. One distinct difference between Pashmina and Cashmere is the micron size. Pashmina fibers are finer and thinner than cashmere fiber, therefore, it is ideal for making light weight apparel like fine scarves. However, these days the word PASHMINA has been used too liberally and any scarves made from natural or synthetic fiber are sold as Pashmina creating confusion in the market.
Pashminas from Kashmir are the best in quality because of the conditions to which the mountain goats have adapted over centuries. The high Himalayan ranges of Kashmir has harsh, cold climate and in order to survive that the mountain goats have developed exceptionally warm and light fiber which might be slightly coarser than cashmere fibers obtained from lower region goats, but it is much warmer.