Pashmina is a type of cashmere made from the soft down of the Capra hircus goat; the name of the cloth derives from the Persian word for wool, pashm. These goats live in the high Himalayas, where it gets very cold, and in the winter they develop a thick coarse exterior coat with a soft downy undercoat. The goats naturally shed their coats in spring, and the tufts of discarded hair are collected by hand or brushed from the underbelly. No goats are harmed in the making of pashmina.
The goat's undercoat is what's used to make pashmina. This undercoat consists of fibers that are much thinner than human hairs, and the higher in the mountains the goats live, the finer their hairs will be. The thinness of the fibers means that they weave into a thin cloth which folds up very thinly, but has excellent insulating qualities. Pashmina is usually used to make scarves, shawls, and throws, and the wool is often combined with silk for added strength and shine. Nepal is the primary producer of pashmina today, and in that country the cloth is woven on hand looms, with silk forming the warp and pashmina yarn the weft. After the fabric is completed, it's generally finished off with hand-knotted silk tassels and then dyed into any one of a multitude of colours.
The labour-intensive process of making a pashmina shawl, plus the fact that one shawl requires wool from three goats, helps explain why these luxurious items are so expensive.