Cashmere, often referred to as "diamond fiber," is one of the world's most luxurious materials, appreciated for its lightness, softness, and superior warmth. The quest to find the best cashmere often leads us to two notable producers: Mongolia and India. Let's explore what makes each country's cashmere unique.
India: Renowned for Craftsmanship and Pashmina
India, specifically the Kashmir region, is another major player in the cashmere world, famous for producing Pashmina. Pashmina is a type of cashmere known for its unparalleled softness and warmth. Kashmiri goats, inhabiting the high-altitude regions of the Himalayas, produce an extremely fine under down to withstand temperatures as low as -42 degrees Celsius. This under down, even thinner than regular cashmere, is the coveted Pashmina.
What sets Indian cashmere apart is the incredible craftsmanship involved in its production. The delicate underdown is hand-combed, hand-spun into yarn, and hand-woven into exquisite Pashmina shawls. Creating Pashmina shawls is labor-intensive, often taking several weeks or even months.
Mongolia: Home of the Finest Cashmere
Mongolia is often hailed as the world's top cashmere producer, and for good reason. The climatic conditions in which Mongolian cashmere goats survive are extreme, with winter temperatures regularly plummeting below -40 degrees Celsius. These harsh circumstances result in a dense undercoat, the "under down," harvested as raw cashmere. This underdown is thicker, longer, and more finely crimped than other regions, translating into superior insulating properties and a softer texture.
Mongolian cashmere production merges centuries-old traditions with modern technology, ensuring the preservation of fiber quality at every stage — from combing to washing, spinning, and dyeing. Moreover, the goats are typically free to roam in their natural habitat, contributing to Mongolian cashmere's ethical and sustainable production.
Ethical and Sustainable Production: A Vital Consideration
When determining the best cashmere, it's essential to consider its production's ethical and sustainability aspects. Both Mongolian and Indian cashmere production place a high value on these aspects.
In Mongolia, goats are allowed to graze freely and are shorn in a manner that respects their natural molting process. Similarly, the hand-combing process in India is gentle and non-invasive, carried out only during spring when the goats naturally shed their Underdown.
The Verdict: Mongolian Cashmere vs. Indian Pashmina
Both Mongolian cashmere and Indian Pashmina have unique attributes that set them apart. Mongolian cashmere is appreciated for its durability, softness, and warmth, while Indian Pashmina is renowned for its extreme fineness and the intricate craftsmanship involved in its production.
Choosing between the two ultimately depends on personal preference. Mongolian cashmere may be your best bet if you value a more robust fiber that can withstand regular use. But if you appreciate meticulous handwork and an ultra-soft feel, a Pashmina shawl from India could be your luxury item.
Ultimately, the journey to find the best cashmere is about more than just the country of origin. It's about understanding and appreciating the effort, skill, and time-honored traditions that go into crafting each unique piece.