PLYS: to make cashmere, individual fibres are combed and twisted together to form a continuous thread. That thread is called one 'ply'. If two of those are then twisted together, the result is a thicker thread known as two ply.
Plys denote chunkiness, but it's not an indicator of quality. That is determined by the original fibre. A good fibre is 'very long and very fine'. The US government standards set that to call a product 'cashmere' the average diameter of each fibre must be less than 0.019mm - an average human hair, by comparison, is 0.1mm.
WEIGHT: How high is 'high value'? Cashmere is priced by weight and is the most expensive fibre that you can get on the planet. That's down to its scarcity: around 20,000 tons of cashmere are produced across the world every year. (For context, we produce an annual two million tons of wool and 25 million tons of cotton globally). However, the weight doesn't constitute quality. It all depends on the construction of the product and the complexity of the design. You could have a loose knit or one-ply jumper that weighs less than a five-ply cable knit, but if the one-ply has better fibre, it will last longer and feel softer.
WASHING: there's no need to wash your cashmere after each wear. In fact, you can get away with ten wears before you have to wash a cashmere item. The material shouldn't smell much, even if you wear it against bear skin, as it's naturally breathable. Only please ensure your pieces are kept clean as the moths are attracted to dirt and debris, not cashmere itself.
PLAIN KNITS OR FINE KNITS: we recommend hand washing using a special cashmere wash. Alternatively, using a washing machine with a delicate, hand-wash or wool setting in a temperature less than 30°C and on a very low spin cycle. Place your cashmere piece in a laundry bag before putting it in the washing machine. If there are any stains or more substantial cleaning is required, we suggest using a dry-clean service.
DRYING: lay the washed piece flat on a towel, rolling it loosely, lightly press and then allow to air-dry flat, preferably in a room away from direct sunlight. Avoid hanging to reduce any risk of stretching.
DRY CLEANING: professional cleaning services are recommended for cashmere designs with complex stitches.
IRONING: turn the piece inside-out and lay flat. Put the iron to the lowest heat setting and avoid direct contact between the iron and the cashmere by laying a damp cloth between both. If using a hand-held steamer, keep some distance between the hot face and the cashmere.
STORING: the worst thing you can do is store your cashmere for longer periods without washing it. Instead, give the item a thorough clean and seal it inside a zipped-up cotton bag (moths hate cotton). For an extra defensive flourish, I recommend scattering wooden cedar balls inside drawers to repel moths as they don't like the smell, just replace the cedar balls annually. Also put your cashmere in a cool, preferably dark drawer or shelf space. Keep your piece folded as hanging it will risk losing its shape.
DURABILITY: All cashmere will initially bobble ('pill') in high friction areas such as under the armpit or on the shoulders where your handbag strap sits. But if you 'depill' quality cashmere - by laying the piece flat and gently brushing away the bobbles - after two or three times it will settle. A good cashmere piece can easily last for 30 years if you look after it. And, when you're done with it, you can drop it off in the compost heap where it will biodegrade.
Lower quality cashmere is different. Because the fibres are much shorter, the garment will just keep pilling. It gets thinner and thinner until there's barely anything left.