The Most Expensive Fabric On Earth Is Illegal To Own

If you’ve never heard of shahtoosh, you’re likely not alone. It’s a kind of shawl made from the hair of Tibetan antelopes and is rarely worn in public. If, on the other hand, you’re patting yourself on the back for being one of the few people who actually own one, you might be surprised to learn that technically you’re a criminal. Back in 1999, the word pashmina was added to our lexicon. The long, brightly-colored cashmere shawls, made from the fleece of Tibetan mountain goats, were seen on everyone from Nicole Kidman to Margaret Thatcher. At first they were a status symbol, primarily wrapping the bare shoulders of the most stylish and well-heeled women. The foreign name is what made them a sensation, but after a while, the word was being used to describe anything that kept your neck warm. Like the real pashmina, the shahtoosh is also from the Himalayas. However, instead of goat hair, the shahtoosh is made from the underfur of the chiru, a species of antelope indigenous to the Tibetan Plateau in China. The problem is that these majestic animals must be killed before their wool can be removed. As a result, since 1975 the species has been classified as endangered. That, of course, didn't stop poachers, who continued to kill the antelopes until late 1998. The price tags were commensurate with their rarity, often fetching as much as $15,000. Today, bringing a shahtoosh into the United States could result in a 5-year prison sentence and a 6-figure fine.