Pashmina wool is special because of it rarity and quality, especially in the western world. It also has softness equal to or greater than cashmere. It holds color beautifully, and the greatest quality wool is very light. In fact, a test of the quality of this type of wool is to thread it through a wedding ring. If it does not slide through easily, it is too thick, and is thus of lesser quality.
This material is harvested from one source, the Himalayan mountain goat. The goat can be found in Kashmir and Nepal primarily. Because pashmina wool set the fashion world on fire in the 1990s, efforts have been successfully made to rear the mountain goat in Mongolia as well. With very similar weather patterns, the Mongolian import now is an excellent source for pashmina.
Earlier harvesting of pashmina wool tended to mean combing the mountains surrounding Nepal or Kashmir to find the shed wool of the goats, frequently caught on thorn bushes. Collections of the wool, which are the winter undercoat of the goats, were minimal. The average goat sheds about 3-8 ounces (.085-.22 kg) of hair per year.
Because of the minimal collection amount, pashmina wool is almost always blended with silk to produce the light, almost shiny cloth. The highest grade wools tends to be an 80% pashmina, 20% silk blend. However, most commonly 70/30 blends are used and marketed.
Pashmina has to be compared to cashmere. Unlike cashmere, it is a blended fabric. Many believe the pashmina wool is far softer. Cashmere may be harvested through a process of combing the goat, which results in slightly coarser wool. However, cashmere is very soft, though it does not have the sheen that the silk threads lend to pashmina.
Since this wool is still rare, and still popular, it is quite expensive. Lower grades might run for 35-50 US dollars (USD) for a scarf. High grades can be considerably higher prices. It would not be unusual to pay up to 100 USD for a simple scarf. The pashmina, a beautiful wrap made from this wool is likely to be priced at least 100 USD, and may be as much as 300 USD.
The decision to raise the goats in Mongolia has led to slightly less expensive pashmina offerings. If one is allergic to wool, there are also some synthetic fabrics, which come close to the texture and lightness of pashmina wool. However, most who love pashmina wool turn up their noses at these synthetics as providing nowhere near the durability and quality of true pashmina.