Pashmina refers to a specific type of wool that is produced from the fur of the pashmina goat indigenous to the Himalaya Mountains. The name pashmina is derived from the Persian word, pashm, for wool.
Products made from pashmina wool demand a high price, and are desirable for their fine texture, warmth and softness. Though many products are made from pashmina; shawls, wraps and scarves are by far the most popular. This is due both to fashion trends as well as the expense of pashmina wool. It takes far less wool to create a scarf than it does to create a full sweater; though this is not to say that pashmina clothing does not exist. A popular product made from pashmina wool is an extra wide scarf that can be bunched together to be worn around the neck, or unbunched for use as a shawl or sarong. This scarf is often referred to as a pashmina due to the material of its construction.
Pashmina products can be purchased with varying degrees of pashmina wool content. 100% pashmina wool is very delicate and more like a gauze than a proper wool thread, so to increase strength and reduce costs manufactures often blend silk and other wools with pashmina to create a fiber that is more durable and less expensive. Due to the prohibitive cost of 100% pashmina wool products, blended items are most commonly found in department stores; though specialty shops and upscale boutiques readily sell pure pashmina items.
Pashmina wool usage can be dated back to the first people indigenous to the Himalayas; and the first incidence of the now ubiquitous pashmina shawl can be dated through written records to the third century BC. Though this early usage of pashmina can most likely be attributed more to the regional availability of the wool rather than the desirable characteristics specific to pashmina wool. Today pashmina goats are raised commercially to meet the demand for pashmina wool. There is no distinction between the wool gathered from goats in the Himalayas and goats raised in Mongolia where the most successful commercial pashmina farms can be found.