What is Real Cashmere and How to Tell it Apart

What is Real Cashmere and How to Tell it Apart?

When we talk about real cashmere, we of course mean material that is 100% cashmere, with no additions of other wools, or synthetic materials. Pure cashmere is a very luxurious and prestigious material, and unfortunately, its renown attracts fakes.

As long as the label clearly states that an article of clothing is not 100% cashmere, it’s fine, but it not always does. So how can you tell if a cashmere scarf is real? Fortunately, there are ways to discover if your cashmere is actually pure.

How to test cashmere?

First, let’s talk about a common quality of cashmere that can indicate if your piece feels off. Cashmere doesn’t irritate the skin, it’s very soft and comfortable to wear. So if your cashmere irritates your skin, even after a proper process of washing, drying, and de-pilling, it may be a sign that something’s wrong.

Before you run any more complicated tests on your cashmere, do the simple ones first.

Quick and Easy Tests to Check if Your Cashmere is Fake

  1. The Feel Test: The easiest one is to gently rub your cashmere against your skin. Go for areas that are highly sensitive to touch, such as your neck, or your inner arm. You should not be able to feel any roughness or itchiness. If you do, your cashmere may either be low quality, or inauthentic.
  2. The Stretch Test: You can gently pull on the fabric to slightly stretch it. Cashmere of high quality retains its shape after being stretched. So if your cashmere stays stretched after you pull it, it may not be pure.
  3. The Look Test: With a sharp eye, and maybe some help from a magnifying glass, you can analyze the structure of cashmere fabric. High-quality cashmere has a very tight structure. You can also look at the surface of the fabric. You should be able to see small, up to 2mm long, fluff on the surface. Anything longer than that can indicate material additives. You can also put your cashmere in front of a light source, this will help you see if your garment has a consistent knitting pattern, which may also be used to discover a low-quality product.
  4. The Smell Test: Wet cashmere smells a bit like a wet animal, but the smell is not overbearing. It remains pleasant. This is possibly the least definitive test, but it holds some merit.

Flame Test

All pure fabrics can be identified by a flame test, and it’s no different with cashmere wool. Flame tests are in fact so accurate, they are even used during court cases. So if you’re looking for a true test of cashmere look no further.

Of course, we don’t want you to chuck a match at your potentially authentic cashmere scarf. Instead, pluck a small batch of fibers, and light them on fire. There are several indicators by which you can identify whether or not you just burnt pure cashmere.

With this cashmere test, you’re looking for these signs:

  • Pure cashmere burns relatively slowly and creates a distinct sharp smell of burnt hair.
  • Cashmere strands also shrink while burning.
  • Burning real cashmere leaves behind easy-to-wipe ash.

If the cashmere isn’t pure, one or more of these features will be different. For example:

  • Wool: If wool was added, the ash left will be gritty.
  • Cotton: It burns quickly and flashes, it also has the smell of burning paper.
  • Nylon: This material melts rather than burns to ash.
  • Polyesters/acrylics: Similarly to nylon, these materials melt, and on top, they produce a sweet, chemical scent.

The result of the test depends on what material was added to the cashmere. If any, of course.

This is quite possibly the best test of true cashmere you can take. But if you have the equipment, you can also opt for a different test, one that doesn’t require you to burn even a single strand of cashmere fabric.

Lab Tests

That’s why we said – if you have the equipment. Or know someone who does. We’ll touch on it briefly.

Cashmere can be analysed under a microscope. It’s a more advanced version of looking at the fabric structure with a magnifying glass. However, some materials similar to cashmere have a structure that’s hard to differentiate.

So if you have an entire laboratory right next to you, maybe you also have access to an Infrared Spectroscope?

Yes, we’re probably jumping the shark with this one. Although it can 100% analyse any pure and hybrid fabrics, it’s probably better for you to stick to the flame test, and then look online for the closest lab with an IR machine.

To summarise, there are ways, even surefire ways (pun intended) to analyse whether or not your cashmere is pure. Some of these cashmere tests may not hold up when performed by themselves, but there may also be a pattern of results pointing at your cashmere not being 100% pure. And remember, a proper flame test will yield the best results.