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The Orenburg Shawl is one of the classic symbols of Russian handicraft, along with along with Tula Samovar, Matrioshka, Khohloma painting, Gzhel, Palekh, Vologda lace, Dymkovo toys, Rostov finift (enamel), and Ural malachite. This type of finely knit, down-hair lace shawl originated in the Orenburg area about 250 years ago, in the 18th century.
The Orenburg region of Russia is famous for its shawls, known as Orenburg shawls/scarves. In the English-speaking world, they are often called "wedding ring shawls" because, although the shawls are quite large, a shawl knit in the traditional fashion is so fine that it can be pulled through a wedding ring.
The down hair of Orenburg goats is the thinnest in the world – 16-18 micrometer, and that of Angora goats (mohair) is 22-24 micrometer. Products made of Orenburg down hair are therefore especially soft and fine. The thinness of hair is partly due to the severe snowy winters of the Ural mountain steppes, along with particular qualities of feed and living conditions. The Orenburg goat breed can only be reared in the Orenburg Region. Despite being so fine, the fiber is very durable, more so than wool. The efforts of the French in the 19th century to import Orenburg goats were not successful, as the warm climate of France was not suitable for development of the fine down hair. Orenburg goats in France degenerated into ordinary goats with rough thick down hair. In the 18th – 19th centuries France imported tens of thousands of poods (an old Russian measure of weight equal to about 36 pounds) of Orenburg goat down hair, which was valued higher than cashmere.