Around the World in Fur
Virtually since the beginning of mankind, fur has been valued for its comfort and beauty by people all over the world. Today, the fur trade supports the traditional lifestyles and economies of many people, including Canadian Indians and Inuit living in some of the most remote regions of the planet. With a rich ceremonial and fashion history, furs have personalities as varied and unique as the countries and cultures that have nurtured them.
Natural (long-haired) beaver has long, lustrous fur, while the soft, velvety, short nap of plucked and sheared beaver is also a favorite with designers who create elaborate effects in varying colors and textures with this remarkably versatile and durable fur.
Originally from South America, but now farm-raised in both North and South America and Europe, chinchilla has always had snob appeal. This dense, medium-length fur varies in color from gray-black to slate-blue; it is the softest, plushest fur in the world.
A very hardy kind of fur. Dense and durable, it is creamy, tan or grey and often used for men’s jackets.
An unusual North American wild fur that is very durable, fisher is identified by silky guard hairs in brown to blackish tones with thick underfur.
The majority of fox sold in North America is farm-raised. Fox is available in the widest range of natural colors of any fur, apart from mink, including silver, crystal blue, red, gray and white. Very long, lustrous guard hair with a thick, soft underfur make fox ideal for adding glamour to collars, cuffs, wraps and stoles.
Lamb is the chameleon of fur with a host of personalities. The queen of lamb is broadtail: of Russian origin it is sleek, lightweight, shiny and flat, with a slight wave, like a fine moiré fabric. Naturally brown, black or gray it is often dyed in more exotic colors. Persian lamb, from karakul sheep raised in both Asia and South Africa, is prized for its soft, wavy curls in natural tones of black or gray. Mongolian lamb is unique for its long, curly wild look; naturally off-white, its silky hair is also frequently dyed a kaleidoscope of hues. Mouton pelts are sheared closely for a soft, thick flat fur. Shearling is natural lamb pelts with the leather side sueded or leatherized and worn on the outside, and fur worn as a lining.
Wildly furry Canadian lynx displays creamy white tones with darker markings while Russian lynx is distinguished by whiter fur with very subtle beige markings. The whiter the fur, the greater the value.
A close cousin to Russian sable, this beautiful mink-like fur comes in three types: American marten has long silky hair and varies from blue-brown to dark brown, with some golden variations; Baum marten is softer, silkier and shinier than American, while Stone marten is the finest marten of all, with thick, soft guard hairs and a bluish-brown cast over pale underfur.
Still the most popular fur, mink is soft and lightweight with lustrous guard hair and dense, soft underfur. Primarily farm-raised, the female pelts are smaller in size and have a softer, silkier feel than the larger male pelts. While mink is available in a wide variety of natural colors, it is often dyed as well. Sheared mink has become quite popular for its velvety, sporty, casual look. Mink is very durable.
Muskrat is a North American wild fur that is popular for its natural colour and can also be dyed rich jewel shades. Muskrat is often also sheared to produce a soft luxurious look.
Found mainly in Argentina and the Southern USA, nutria is also farmed in Poland and the Czech Republic. Similar to beaver, it is often sheared for a sporty, more lightweight feel. Because its underfur is very soft and plush and its fur can be dyed in a variety of shades, nutria is a popular fur for linings and trims.
Woolly and coarse, with a short, dense plush-like fur in colors ranging from yellow-grey to natural brown, New Zealand opossum is often used for liners and men’s coats. The very different American variety has long silvery black-tipped guard hair with thick underfur.
Rabbit generally has mid-length guard hair in a variety of natural colors and is often sheared or grooved. While not very durable, this is a very reasonably priced fur and is enjoying increasing popularity as designers use it to create trims, accessories and fun, casual garments.
Long gray/black guard hair with silvery tips over a woolly, dense undertur makes North American raccoon a very versatile and durable fur. Finn raccoon is farmed in Europe and has long, thick tan guard hair with black tips and dense underfur.
Russian sable is still the most prized fur in the world, renowned for its legendary silky quality, rarity and light weight. Brown with a silver cast, it is the most expensive fur especially when there is an abundance of silver hair. Canadian sable (brown or golden) is really American marten (see above), and is somewhat less expensive.
Also called Japanese raccoon, has very long guard hair and a full texture. Colour is light amber brown with dark, distinctive markings.
Similar look to mink, with short guard hair and semi-dense underfur. Sometimes called China mink. Ermine, the winter phase of the weasel, has silky white fur with telltale black tips. Ermine was once the fur of European nobility who swept about with it decorating their capes and trains. Traces of this medieval tradition survive in the ceremonial robes of judges and academics.beaver