Persian Lamb: Telling the Genuine from the Faux
Persian Lamb is a beautiful fur. It’s warm, rather sturdy and can be sporty or dressy. It comes in different curl patterns, depending on the age of the lamb from which it was taken. So why can’t you find it anymore?
The answer is, you can, if you are willing to pay couture prices to buy the designer goods which incorporate the different types of Persian Lamb. There have been stories of Persian Lamb being a cruel fur because it required the killing of a pregnant ewe in order to get her unborn lamb. That is debatable; however, these stories have made it a less acceptable fur to wear. For those who admire and wish to acquire Persian Lamb, vintage is the way to go.
Persian Lamb is a beautiful fur. It’s warm, rather sturdy and can be sporty or dressy. It comes in different curl patterns, depending on the age of the lamb from which it was taken. But this one is faux, although the collar is white mink.
Persian lamb was very popular from the early 20th century until about the 1970’s, with the popularity waning a bit after that. It was still found trimming suits and coats; however, full Persian Lamb coats were not easily found after that time, hence the value of a vintage Lamb coat.
There are many vintage coats around, usually dating from the middle of the last century. But, there are also many manufacturers who developed fabrics that mimic the genuine article pretty well. Many people are fooled by the faux furs, and even those who sell vintage clothing are often not experts in the field and simply believe what they are told when they buy the garments from estates.
The term “Persian Lamb” can refer to many different types of lamb fur, sometimes called Astrakhan, Karakul or Broadtail. All of these refer to lamb, but at different ages after birth (or even before, taken from stillborn lambs). The type I will address in this article is the curly type, which is taken from the lambs when they are about 10 days old.
Faux Persian Lamb is easy to spot, if you know what you’re looking for. This is another example of a faux fur coat with a mahogany mink collar.
Faux Persian Lamb is notorious for being passed off as real. The very first Persian Lamb piece I ever (mistakenly) bought was faux fur, and I quickly learned how to tell the difference. I have even seen real and faux furs all labeled as genuine fur in a vintage store, simply because so many people just don’t know how to tell which is which. When I told the owner how to test it, she refused to look and said I was wrong, so I most certainly did not buy from her. An on-line seller once told me that Persian Lamb was shorn from the live animal and then sewn in a curl pattern on a fabric backing, so that’s why, although he “found the fabric between the curls, as I said he would, the coat was definitely real Persian Lamb.” I’m afraid he was in denial about how furs are made.
There is a lot of misconception out there, so to find out if the fur is genuine or faux, read on.
If you are buying a fur from a shop, do the following (or if shopping online, ask the seller to do these tests and look for these things):
- Look at the fur under a strong light and part the curls with your fingers. If you see a woven black fabric between the curls, it’s faux fur. Real Persian Lamb has a smooth hide, which is covered with the hair, and the curls will be much harder to part. The curl pattern on a faux fur will appear to be too uniform, indicating it to be machine-made, while real fur has a much more random pattern of curls.
- Next, beware if a seller claims a lamb coat has absolutely no flaws at all. Persian Lamb will nearly always have a bit of edge wear at the back of the neck, cuffs, pocket edges, front edges and around fasteners. The wear will appear to be ivory-colored hide showing through where the fur has worn off. There will usually be tiny areas where the curls have split from the hide, showing ivory-colored skin in little spots (which can be repaired by dabbing with black leather dye).
- Finally, a faux Persian Lamb fur is rather lightweight, while the real thing usually weighs a ton.
Genuine Persian Lamb looks like the example on the left, while the example on the right is faux Persian Lamb with a faux fur collar.
Sometimes you will see a coat with tiny, nubby curls, and the seller or price tag may also state “Persian Lamb.” This is not fur at all, not even faux fur, but a wool fabric called “boucle.” This was a very popular fabric in the 1950’s, often called “Poodle Cloth,” but it is also confused with Persian Lamb.
I can look at a picture and instantly know if it’s real or fake. I can also pick one up without looking at it and know the same. If you are interested in Persian Lamb, you can learn this too, but you must do the tests and compare before you buy. Faux fur has its merits, but you should not buy unless you know which one you are getting. Good selling points in favor of the faux fur are that you don’t have to keep it in cold storage, it’s cheaper to clean, it’s sturdier and you can wear it in the rain.
Be aware that the faux Persian Lamb coats are usually accented with rabbit fur collars, while the real ones are made with mink collars (although there are exceptions). The faux Persian Lamb jackets you will find with the label “A Winter Product” almost always have a black Rabbit collar, black velvet buttons with loop closures and no furrier’s label. Sometimes this style has no label at all.
This little cropped coat is a common example of a faux Persian Lamb product.
This little cropped jacket (above) is very common, and you will see yourself coming and going in it, so I only recommend this if you want something to wear running around town. The care label, which you will never find in a real fur, will state “Clean by Furrier Method Only, no Steam.” If you see that, you can be sure it’s not a real fur. Many people misunderstand this label and think “Furrier Method” means it’s real, while it actually means that the fur should be treated as if it were real. The names “Safari,” “Sportowne,” “Borgana” and “Miracurl” are a few of the most widely-known names of manufacturers and designers of faux fur garments.
These are examples of labels of faux Persian Lamb products. They often say “Clean by Furrier Method Only, no Steam,” which is true; this is how to treat a faux Persian Lamb product. But that doesn’t make it genuine Persian Lamb.
Isn’t it funny how a fur that has become so unpopular could be so greatly sought after in a faux fur version? It seems that people really do want the look of Persian Lamb. After reading this article, I hope those of you who wish to have the real thing can now identify it, acquire it, wear it and love it. I know I do.
Sharon Maxwell-Yamamoto is a Worthologist who specializes in vintage clothing and accessories.
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