Pashmina and Cashmere, You surely have heard both. You surely know there is some connection but you are not really sure. Today, I will take you through History. At the end you will know what you should seek next time you are looking for something luxurious to make your winter warm.
In 1800s, Raja Gulab Singh ruled over Jammu and Kashmir. His empire was flourishing both economically and politically. It had won wars with the neighboring state of Ladkh and Ruthok. As a result of the war, Ladkh and Ruthok, where mountain goats were raised in large numbers by Changpa nomads, entered in a treaty with the Kashmiri empire for the priced white gold- Pashmina. Only Kashmir would have access to this Himalayan treasure. As a result, Kashmir became well known for its very fine and soft Pashmina Shawls.
The British East India company saw a great opportunity and started importing Pashmina to Europe. They needed a name that will sell in West and that is how Pashmina became Cashmere (British way of saying Kashmir).
However, In 1990s a boom in cashmere demand turn out to be a curse for the word ‘Pashmina’. ‘Cashmere’ The word was already legally recognized in countries like the US and the UK because of its historical presence. One could not legally sell something else as Cashmere.
Now the problem was, In 1990s ‘Cashmere’ was still locally (in South Asian region) known as Pashmina. This is where the few dishonest business man saw great opportunity to make money. They started selling nylon as ‘Pashmina’. Initially, people did not realize but with time they found out something was wrong and started associating Pashmina as the fake Cashmere.
A greed to make more money, not only destroyed the reputation of fine Pashmina of Kashmir, but also created a untold story of the Himalayan white gold and disconnected it from its origin. Today, it is unwise to seek pashmina. Cashmere has become Pashmina, and with current developments in both Kashmir and else were, it seems this will be the case for the future too.
So next time you want to buy Cashmere- the genuine one, confirm with the seller that it is ‘Cashmere’ and not ‘Pashmina’. The seller will be liable if he sells fakes as Cashmere but not Pashmina.