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Pashmina refers to a type of cashmere wool and textiles made from it. The name comes from Pashmineh, made from Persian pashm (= "wool"). This wool comes from changthangi or pashmina goat—a special breed of goat indigenous to high altitudes of the Himalayas. The wool has been used for thousands of years to make high-quality shawls that also bear the same name. The goat sheds its winter coat every spring and the fleece is caught on thorn bushes. One goat sheds approximately 3-8 ounces of the fiber. Villages would scour the mountainside for the finest fleece to be used. Cashmere shawls have been manufactured in Kashmir and Nepal for thousands of years. The test for a quality pashmina has been warmth, feel and the passing of the shawl through a wedding ring.

Pashmina is an indigenous Nepali word which only became popular after the so-named shawls, woven in Nepal, started being popular in the west. What are commonly thought of as pashminas have their origin in Nepal, where the people have a cultural heritage of hand-weaving pashmina shawls with the well-known fringing and hand dyeing.

  To meet the demands of cashmere lovers, the goats are now commercially reared in the Gobi Desert area in Inner and Outer Mongolia. The region has identical harsh weather conditions to those of the Himalayan region, and is thereby apt for the goats to grow this inner wool, but also has acres of grazing ground to produce cashmere economically and commercially. During spring (Molting Season), the goats shed this inner wool, which they grow all over again during the course of the winter. The inner wool is collected and spun to produce cashmere. The quality is just as high, while the costs have become more reasonable as a result.

Pashmina accessories are available in a range of sizes, from "scarf" (12" x 60") to "wrap" or "stole" (28" x 80") to fullsize shawl (36" x 80"). Pure pashmina is a rather gauzy, open weave, as the wool cannot tolerate high tension. The most popular pashmina fabric is a 70% pashmina/30% silk blend, but 50/50 is also common. The 70/30 is tightly woven, has an elegant sheen and drapes nicely, but is still quite soft and light-weight.

A pashmina shawl can range in cost from as little as about $35US for a pure pashmina scarf or up to thousands of $US for a super high-quality pure pashmina shawl. They are known for their softness and warmth. A craze for pashminas in the mid-1990s resulted in high demand for pashminas, so demand exceeded supply.

When pashmina shawls rose into fashion prominence during the mid-'90s, they were marketed dubiously. Cashmere used for pashmina shawls was claimed to be of a superior quality attributable to the enhanced sheen and softness that the fabric (cashmere blended with silk) encompassed. In the consuming markets, pashmina shawls were again defined as a shawl/wrap with cashmere and silk, notwithstanding the actual meaning of pashmina—which is technically an accessory of pure pashmina and not the blend.

Following up, some unscrupulous companies marketed the man-made fabric viscose as "pashmina" with deceptive marketing statements as "authentic viscose pashmina". These are often sold for a very low price, leaving the buyer to decide whether it is authenticity, quality, or price that motivates their purchase.

This article is licensed under the GNU Free Documentation License. It uses material from the Wikipedia article "Pashmina". A list of authors is available in Wikipedia.
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