Wool is a natural textile fiber obtained from the sheared hair of various animals, such as sheep, goats, camels, yaks and vicunas.
Wool is a versatile, warm, durable and insulating material that is used to make clothing, accessories, rugs, wigs and more.
But what are the qualities that make one wool more valuable than another? And what is the finest wool of all? In this article we try to give some of our opinions.
The fineness of the fiber
One of the main criteria for evaluating the quality of a wool is the fineness of the fibre, i.e. the diameter of the pile, measured in microns (one thousandth of a millimetre). In general, the finer the fiber, the softer, lighter and shinier the wool.
For comparison, human hair has an average diameter between 40 and 90 microns, while the finest wools have much smaller diameters.
The fineness of the fiber depends on the breed of the animal, the climate, the diet and the care it receives.
The finest types of wool
There are different types of wool, each with its own peculiarities and economic value. Among the most well-known and appreciated, we can mention:
- Cashmere: it is the wool obtained from the coat of a Tibetan goat (Hircus), bred in countries such as India, Turkey, Iran, Russia and Mongolia. It is also known as "golden fleece" for its softness, its shine and its ability to protect from the cold. The diameter of the fiber varies between 15 and 19 microns1.
- Mohair: it is the wool produced by the Angora goat, originally from Turkey. It is a wool similar to silk due to the length and shine of the pile, very resistant and suitable for dyeing. It is used to make wigs, carpets and elegant garments. The diameter of the fiber varies between 24 and 60 microns2.
- Merino: it is the wool derived from the Merino sheep, originally from Morocco and imported to Spain in the Middle Ages. Today the main producing nations are Australia and New Zealand. It is a thin wool (20 microns), elastic and breathable, which is suitable for both summer and winter garments2.
- Camel: it is the wool obtained from the camel, an animal that lives in Asia and Africa. It is a precious, hypoallergenic, light and elastic fibre, which maintains a constant body temperature and protects from overheating. The average annual yield is 5 kg for the male and 3.5 kg for the female. The diameter of the hair ranges from 17 to 23 microns2.
- Yak: it is the wool coming from the yak, a bovid that lives free on the highlands of Central Asia, in particular in Tibet and Mongolia. It is a warm, soft, durable and waterproof wool, which is used to create high-quality garments and local craftsmanship. The diameter of the hair is approximately 18 microns2.
- Vigo: it is the most precious and expensive wool in the world, extracted from the vicuna, a camelid that lives in the Andes, in Peru, Bolivia, Chile and Ecuador. The vicuna was already known at the time of the Incas, who reserved it for sovereigns and priests. Today it is a protected species and its shearing takes place only every two years, with a yield of around 250 grams per animal. The fiber is exceptionally fine, soft and shiny, with a diameter of 12 microns3.
Wool is a natural fiber with multiple qualities, which differs based on the fineness, softness, shine and resistance of the pile.
Among the various types of wool, the most valuable of all is vicuna wool, followed by cashmere, mohair, merino, camel and yak wool. These wools are sought after and expensive, but offer unique comfort and beauty.