As one of the most precious natural fabrics in the world, it would be easy to think that it is safe to buy anything marked as ‘cashmere’ in a reputable shop – but that isn’t always the case. The quality of the fibres used, the manufacturing processes, and the treatments applied to the fabric, can all have a profound effect on the finished products. Not all cashmere is equal. The price tag is usually a pretty good indicator of quality, but to avoid paying too much for what you’re getting, it’s a good idea to be well informed.
Introduction to cashmere grades
The two main factors when determining the grade of cashmere are fibre length, and fibre fineness (diameter). Based on these basic factors, experts grade the cashmere into categories as follows:
Quality Grade C
This is the lowest of the three grades and indicates a fibre diameter of around 30 microns. This thickness means rougher scales on the fibres too, so the resulting clothing will be scratchier against the skin and more likely to irritate. Grade C cashmere is a lot cheaper than Grades B or A.
Quality Grade B
The diameter of Grade B fibres is about 19 microns – about half the thickness of Grade C. This is the middle ground of course and will be less likely to irritate the skin than Grade C, but more likely than Grade A. It will also fall into the middle ground about price.
Quality Grade A
These are the thinnest (as low as 14 microns) and longest fibres (up to about 36mm). These will last a long time, due to the fibre length, and will be the softest and least likely to irritate the skin, due to the fineness of the fibres. They will also demand top dollar.