Different animals produce wool, including sheep, Kashmir goats, camelids, camels, llamas, rabbits, guanacos, yaks, musk oxen, and vicunas. Some wool types cost more than others, some highly affordable, and others quite pricey and only used in luxury items. Among the world’s most expensive wool is Vicuna wool. Why is vicuna wool so expensive?
Vicuna wool is so expensive because it’s the finest and rarest wool in the world. One vicuna produces 1 pound of wool per year, requiring a delicate and time-consuming process of collecting their wool.
The wool comes in different textures, qualities, durability, strength, and even lengths, with various aspects contributing to its value.
Getting your hands on this wool type isn’t easy, but you can if you are determined.
Together with where to find Vicuna wool, let’s explore the reasons why vicuna wool is very expensive and where to buy it.
Why Is Vicuna Wool So Expensive?
Vicuna wool is the world’s most expensive wool for different reasons. These are:
1. It Is Rare
Vicunas generate around 0.5 kilograms of wool annually, making it super rare. Also, shearing of these animals occurs every two years, and since Vicunas live in the wild, they must be caught first.
The annual production of vicuna is around 12 tonnes which is significantly low compared to cashmere’s 25 tonnes.
Due to the limited supply, vicuna wool prices are extremely steep, with prices of vicuna fiber going for around $400-$600 before being processed, while merino is about $80.
You can spend over $20000 on a coat made of vicuna wool. On the other hand, a vicuna wool-made scarf costs about $1500, while a yard of vicuna fabric costs $1800- $3000.
2. It Is Hard To Mill Vicuna Wool
Transforming vicuna wool into a finished fabric is pretty challenging, with only a few mills globally able to work with this delicate fiber.
Vicuna can be irredeemably damaged if milled wrongly. The average weaving time of super 100s wool is 400 picks a minute, while vicuna is 260 picks a minute at most.
3. It Is The World’s Finest Fiber
Vicuna wool has extremely fine fiber, with each fiber having a diameter of 12 microns which is remarkably small. Contrastingly, mohair is around 25 microns, while cashmere is 14-19 microns.
Also, vicuna wool is excellent in insulating and trapping air and is super soft to the touch because its air-filled, hollow fibers have scales.
This means you can feel warm even on a thinner vicuna wool fabric. Softer and finer fiber is more valuable, and vicuna possesses both qualities.
Vicuna’s performance level and premium quality are unmatched, thus making it expensive.
What Is Vicuna Wool?
The vicuna, Peru’s national animal, produces vicuna wool which is super fine and loved for its natural color (rich golden brown), lightness, and softness.
Vicunas are camelids native to South America living in high alpine regions of Argentina, Peru, Chile, and Bolivia’s Andes mountains.
These animals were heavily hunted for their precious wool in the past but are now a protected species. Since being protected, their population has significantly increased to about 350 000 today from 1974’s – 6000. Hunting Vicunas is illegal.
Loro Piana, an Italian luxury brand, is at the forefront regarding the efforts to safeguard vicuna, working with Andean communities and Peru’s government since 1994.
It has helped rehabilitate the habitat of these animals, including buying almost 5000 acres of Peruvian Andes to develop a reserve to shear, observe, and study the animals safely.
Traditionally, these animals get sheared once every two years and then released to the wild once again immediately.
After harvesting, vicuna wool is spun into fibers to make garments such as sweaters, socks, scarves, throws, blankets, and insulation for suits and coats.
Vicuna Wool Characteristics
Below are the reasons vicuna wool is exceptional:
a) It’s extremely fine
This substance is incredibly soft, measuring about 12 microns, so this is an excellent choice if you want to wear some of the world’s finest fibers.
b) Natural color
You can easily integrate garments made of vicuna wool into your closet because of this wool’s pleasant pale white or cinnamon color.
The vicunas’ Andes mountains’ temperatures can drastically drop to below freezing at night. On the other hand, the sun provides relatively mild temperatures during the daytime.
Vicunas use their thick, smooth coat to withstand harsh weather conditions. The tiny scales let the fibers interlock, thus trapping heat and air.
Vicuna wool is hypoallergenic and thus safe for sensitive people prone to wool allergic reactions. Compared to cashmere, it is lighter by 10 percent, so wearing it feels comfortable and nice on your body.
e) Production Time
Unlike sheep shorn at least once a year, vicunas are sheared biennially because their wool takes longer to grow.
Once you shear a vicuna, you will wait for some time before doing it again, thus making their wool valuable and rare.
Vicuna Wool History
To understand why vicuna wool is scarce and expensive, let’s take a trip down memory lane by looking at its history.
The Pre-Colombian Era
In South America, Vicuna wool was highly prominent during the pre-Colombian era from the 13th century to the early 16th century.
The Incas prized this product highly, considering it a pure gold coat reserved for the Incan royalty.
During this period, many vicunas called Peru’s Andean region home, so their wool was in high supply.
The 16th Century
The early 16th century saw the arrival of conquistadors of Spain. They then discovered vicuna wool’s luxury.
Since the Spanish hunted and killed the vicunas using firearms rather than only shearing these animals and leaving them alive, their population started declining as many centuries of poaching commenced.
Due to the vicuna killings that started in the 16th century, their population had declined to around 6000 vicunas in Peru by the 60s.
To save these animals, Peru’s government put the animals on the list of endangered species, and the efforts to protect them started.
Some of the conservation efforts introduced include the creation of Pampas Galeras, a reserve for vicunas.
Around 5000 vicunas live in this reserve. In addition, the reserve helps the neighboring Andean communities live harmoniously with the wildlife.
A successful conservation strategy adopted by the reserve is the re-introduction of the shearing ceremony, chaccu, that used to happen centuries back.
The villagers gather and shear the vicunas, then let them go every June. After shearing, the villagers dance, drink, and enjoy music.
Pampas Galeras is the best place to see these beautiful, shy animals since the reserve boasts the world’s largest vicuna population. You will also see other high-altitude fauna like Pampas cats, Andean foxes, and Guanaco.
Today, vicuna wool is the world’s rarest and most coveted wool for making luxury items. On the other hand, the vicuna is the national animal of Peru.
The efforts to protect these animals and prevent their extinction continue with limited amounts of vicuna wool permitted to be collected. Few manufacturers and brands can shear and transform vicuna wool into various products.
The rarity of vicuna wool and the tasking process of harvesting it are the primary reasons it’s the world’s most expensive wool.
However, other things make this substance unique and valuable. These include superior insulation properties, warmth, softness, and lightweight. This wool makes luxury products like scarves, sweaters, shawls, wedding gowns, and coats.