Testing laboratories use several tests to establish the purity of cashmere in its various textile forms like raw form, semi-finished products, and finished products. This post focuses on various tests that are used for the identification of 100% cashmere products.
The words “cashmere” and “pashmina” are used synonymously. In India and the neighboring countries cashmere is known as pashmina, while in the United States it is predominantly referred to as cashmere. It is used for making sweaters and shawls, which are known for their warmth and softness. The wool is obtained from the goat Capra hircus which is indigenously found in the Himalayan region. Pure form of this wool is very expensive because of its fine quality. Some manufacturers dupe customers by selling products that are not 100% pure. To regulate this issue, laboratories use tests to check the purity of the wool used to manufacture products. Let’s have a look at them, one by one.
Ways to Identify Pure Cashmere
Visual Identification Tests
Fiber Thickness and Softness
The fiber diameter of cashmere is 12-21 microns, i.e., they appear very thin as compared to other wool fibers. It is known for its softness and to test it, the cashmere product is rubbed on the face, specifically the chin. It is extremely soft and even the slightest itch is absent.
Cashmere usually has a diamond weave pattern. Another wool fiber known as shahtoosh also has a diamond weave pattern, but the weave in cashmere is larger in scale as compared to the products made of shahtoosh wool.
Cashmere shawls have a long fringe at the ends. The fringe can be braided, twisted, or tied in a single knot. Some shawls have self-fringed edges, which are similar to the ones found in shawls made of shahtoosh. However, these can be easily distinguished because the self-fringed patterns of cashmere are longer than that found in shahtoosh.
Most cashmere shawls do not have embroidery, either along the borders or all over the shawl. They are left plain and simple most of the time. However these days, some manufacturers have started making use of embroidery to embellish cashmere shawls.
Most shawls are either hand-knitted or hand-woven because the delicate cashmere fibers need extreme care while manufacturing. Many weavers have the tendency of mentioning their initials in one corner of the shawl in a crude way. Having weaver initials signals how the shawl was made and indicates that the wool used must be pure because it is hand-woven and not machine-made.
Microscopic Identification Tests
Study of coarse cashmere fiber under transmitted light reveals that the diameter is less and the medullar cells do not fill all over the diameter. When filled with air, the medulla of the fiber appears dark. Also, the scales present in the kemp fibers of cashmere appear as a mosaic that is transversely elongated with smooth edges.
When studied under a microscope using transmitted light, fine fibers of cashmere show scale patterns that appear as blocks placed close to each other. In general, the scale pattern in most wool fibers appears as simple shapes which are situated at varying distances along the fiber shaft.
For customers who wish to buy 100% cashmere products, here are a few pointers that can be of great help.
✤ Hold the shawl between your thumb and pointer finger and wiggle your fingers. If the product is made of pure cashmere, it will not leave a wiggly mark and if it does, it is probably acrylic and definitely not cashmere.
✤ Check the tag attached to the product. It must mention 100% cashmere as purity.
✤ It must be soft and slippery, light and warm.
✤ It should not shine. Products that shine have some percentage of silk added to the product, while cashmere does not have a shine of its own.
Women love to buy scarfs and sweaters made of cashmere, but before they do, it is better to learn how to choose the best sweater or scarf so that they are not falsely led by merchandisers. A final recommendation to all the customers would be to buy cashmere products of renowned brands as they are more reliable as compared to other brands.