Lamb is one fur that cannot be described in a few words. It may be long-haired or short-haired. It may be flat with a wavy pattern or curly. It may be inexpensive to expensive. In addition, the fur industry is now using types of lamb that were seldom, if ever, used before. Each type of fur, therefore, has its own characteristics and colors, although almost all curly lamb is very durable.
Broadtail: Broadtail is the most perishable and one of the most expensive kinds of lamb. It is best for a second fur. It is used in coats (usually very dressy) but, because of its thin, soft leather and fine short hair, it is also used in “fantasy furs”. A broadtail evening suit, for example, would be the ultimate in broadtail – and fur – apparel and fashion. Broadtail comes from stillborn and unborn lambs of karakul sheep. The sheep aren’t killed for their lambs, which is one reason broadtail is exclusive and expensive. Broadtail has a silky texture and fine moiré or watered-silk pattern. Natural gray broadtail wears the best, with natural brown broadtail wearing next best. Black broadtail is dyed, and, like all dyed furs, wears least well, as is the case with the high-fashion colors that broadtail can also be dyed.
Broadtail (American processed): American processed broadtail is made from pelts of a certain kind of lamb that have been sheared near the skin to give the distinctive moiré pattern of natural broadtail. It is more durable than broadtail, since the skins aren’t as thin, and is less expensive. It may be left its natural color or dyed other colors. The shearing should be close enough to the skin that the moiré pattern doesn’t have a curl.
Karakul: See Persian lamb.
Mongolian lamb: This lamb has long, wavy, silky hair. It is sporty and attractive in coats and jackets, but needs special care because it can turn frizzy in wet weather. It is usually left its natural “lamb” color (off-white) or is bleached white.
Mouton lamb: Mouton lamb is sheared sheepskin. The hair is straightened, treated, and set to make a soft, water-repellent, close fur that may be dyed black or brown to imitate Alaska or northern fur seal or beaver. It may also be dyed other colors, although the natural color is generally off-white.
Shearling: Shearling is natural sheepsking that has been sheared (similar to mouton lamb), while the leather side has been sueded. The fur, or sheared, side is worn next to the skin. Shearling is the shepherd’s coat that’s traditional to many eastern European and Asian countries from Hungary to Afghanistan and points east. These coats are often embroidered on the suede side, and the fur side may have longer hair. Shearlings are also “traditional” jackets for western cowboys and ranchers. The coats and jackets, made mainly in California, are casual, sporty, and long wearing, as well as inexpensive. The shearling side tends to be more closely sheared than on shepherds’ coats. They do need care to keep the sueded side soft and clean and the lamb side from matting, although the best American shearlings will not spot from rain.
Persian lamb: Persian lamb is also called karakul, or caracul. It used to be called astrakhan as well. The sheep are raised for their meat and wool in the former Soviet Union, Afghanistan, and other countries in that area, but they are also raised in Namibia as well. Persian lamb from the last area listed is trademarked Swakara. Bukhara is the finest Russian Persian lamb. Broadtail is lamb that is stillborn or unborn. Persian broadtail is lamb that is a few days old or less. Persian lamb (karakul, Swakara, and Bukhara) is lamb that is not older than 10 days. The difference in age allows the fur to develop from the moiré pattern to a tight, close curl. After that age, the fur gets longer and begins to lose the distinctive curl. Persian lamb goes in and out of fashion in the United States, but it has long been one of the most popular furs in Europe, especially Germany. The best-wearing Persian lambs are the natural browns, grays, and whites. Black Persian lamb is dyed to avoid the whiteness of the natural leather from showing through the curls. Persian lamb today, thanks to better breeding, comes in a wider range of natural colors and is lighter in weight than even a few years ago.
Tibet lamb: This lamb is similar to Mongolian lamb, except the silky hair is longer – as long as three to four inches – and may be frizzier. It, too, is off-white, although it can be dyed, and needs special care to keep it from frizzing unattractively. Both Mongolian and Tibet lamb can be straightened if they become too frizzy.