Identifying a genuine pashmina is no easy feat. The marketplace is very oversaturated with low quality products that still proudly carry a 100% pashmina tag and an expensive price to match. You’ll want to get the best value for your money and have a pashmina that you can cherish for years, so how do you find the best kind?
How Do You Identify A Genuine Pashmina?
First, you must know what a pashmina actually is. You will often see or hear the word interchanged with cashmere and may wonder what the difference is. Pashmina cashmere is the finest grade of cashmere and will always come from the Kashmir region (it’s the local word for cashmere). Cashmere can be produced in several different countries around the Himalayan region, but it won’t be pashmina. Similar to true champagne only coming from the Champagne region of France. Kashmiri artisans have been crafting pashmina for centuries and have their own specific techniques and equipment that differentiate it from the cashmere of other regions and countries.
So we’ve established that a genuine pashmina must come from Kashmir, but just buying from Kashmir is not a guarantee. Especially if you are ordering online or from another country. True pashmina has certain fiber attributes that make it the finest on the planet. It mostly has to do with the yarn. Every type of yarn can be measured by its width in microns. Pashmina has very fine yarns that measure from 11-15 microns. Cashmere from other regions usually measure from 14-16 microns. As a result, genuine pashmina shawls usually weigh about 200 grams. Though cashmere is revered for being ultra lightweight, you don’t want a shawl that’s too light. That means it has a very loose weave and a lower quality.
A genuine pashmina must also be handwoven by a government-certified artisan. Don’t trust those 100% pashmina labels. Instead, look for a certification from the Ministry of Textiles India. And be wary of price. It is possible to buy a genuine pashmina for less if you source an artisan in Kashmir that will sell you to at the wholesale price, but be suspicious of anything that costs less than a couple hundred dollars. Pashminas require a certain level of craftsmanship that justify the high price point.
There are also a few tests you can do to check if the pashmina is genuine or not.
The Burn Test: pull a pashmina thread and burn it over a candle or lighter. If it smells like burnt hair and its ashes turn to powder, it should be real pashmina.
The Weave Test: a pashmina is distinct for its irregular weave. Hold up your pashmina in some light to make it easier to see the weave.
The Pilling Test: it may not look great, but unfortunately pilling is normal for natural fabrics. If your pashmina doesn’t pill it’s probably a fake.
The Rubbing Test: fibers that come from animals are low in static energy, but synthetics easily accumulate it (which is where static in clothes comes from). If your shawl starts to create little sparks or attracting dust/small objects after rubbing, it’s not genuine.
The Label Test: there’s the label of certification from the Ministry of Textiles, but also the tag on the pashmina itself is important. A genuine pashmina will always have a hand-stitched label to match the quality and not damage the shawl, so avoid anything with a glued on label.
It takes time to filter through the fake pieces, but in the end you will be rewarded with a beautiful, top quality pashmina that you can treasure for decades.