IDENTIFYING FURS- Photos. A brief guide to vintage fur

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IDENTIFYING FURS- Photos. A brief guide to vintage fur
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There seems to be a demand for information regarding how to identify various types of fur, especially ones commonly seen in vintage clothing and accessories. 

Here is my pictorial guide.  But before we start...

Animal rights statement - I wish to state that I have great empathy with animal rights campaigners and I do not condone the slaughter of animals for their pelts. However, many items listed on e bay and in private collections, are vintage and therefore from a less compassionate age. I respect both an animals' right to life and the right of an individual to cherish vintage furs.

Terminology -

  • undercoat - the denser hair nearest the skin,
  • guard hairs- the longer shiny more delicate hairs which lay over the undercoat,
  • pile - the direction of growth 
  • pelt - the skin of animal

I have tried to be as accurate possible with the follow identifications of furs....

MINK - Flattish fur, long narrow pelts, abundance of guard hairs, very shiny wet look, hardwearing, expensive, wild or farmed, more abundant guard hairs than musquash, strong pile, variety of colours.

Mink ( the colour is blond, I think)
MUSQUASH OR MUSKRAT - slightly larger pelts than mink, shiny guard hair but not so abundant as mink - the base fur can be seen clearly, not as hard wearing as mink and in vintage item often goes bald on well used areas like collars and pockets.
FOX - naturally a rich,russet colour, wild or farmed, variety of colours. A dense fluffy coat, common. Full pelts used as stoles very popular in 1930's and 40's complete with head and feet. Please note that the 'silver' fox is very dark brown with silver guard hairs and is often confused with the 'blue' which is almost white. 
SABLE - usually Russian, similar to mink, shiny, natural dark tan colour, very expensive, trapped. extremely hardwearing
RACCOON - fox like fur, naturally dark brown, tails have golden rings and are often used for trimmings
MARTEN - dark rich brown, Scottish. The American Marten is different.
Pine Marten - white throat, no white paws
STOAT - Small white British rodent. - mid brown  short flattish pile silky fur, white throat and paws
ERMINE - famous for it's use in royal attire, white winter coat of the stoat (above). Typically stoats from southern Britain retain a black tip to their tails, whilst those from Scotland go completely white. Texture as above.
WEASLE- Long slim soft pelts, prone to balding, always ginger in colour.
MOLE - black, trapped short extremely soft short pile hair, pelts are normally 3 or 4 inches square, often seen in vintage pieces
RABBIT OR CONEY- silky soft, shiny longish guard hairs,a bit like a domestic cat to the touch, not a very strong pile, variety of colours, usually farm bred but may be wild, cheap common.
SEAL - shiny, greasy looking fur with a pile that lays definitely in one direction. natural ash brown colour with a silver sheen.
Seal fur
ASTRAKHAN / PERSIAN LAMB - distinctive dense black curly or wavy fur, popular in the 1940's particularly for coats and collars. Astrakhan was the faux variety.
BEAVER - can be dyed or natural (usually natural for vintage items). Glossy and hardwearing.
CHINCHILLA - typically grey and black pelts, incredibly soft dense wooly coat.
SHEEPSKIN - dense fur variety of lengths. Typically for coats it's thick deep pile coarse to the touch. Can be died variety of colours or to resemble other animals.
TIGER - easily identifiable from the black stripes on white and tan background. Endangered or protected species, items not to be generally traded.
LEOPARD - large spotted big cat. Endangered or protected species - items not to be generally traded.
 Leopardskin - pattern often imitated in acrylic fur etc.
CLOUDED LEOPARD -A smaller cat than the leopard, has large circles of brown and black patterning on a pale background
GEOFFREYS CAT - a smaller spotted cat, smaller spots than leopard possibly a darker base colour than the ocelot. Endangered or protected - items not to be generally traded. Trade in Geoffroy's cat in not legal, geoffroy's cat is on annexe A of CITES. International trade in post convention items made from this species is prohibited without a CITES license.
Geoffrey's cat 
JAGUAR - spotted big cat. Endangered or protected species - items not to be generally traded.
OCELOT - spotted  cat some stripes, well defined patches and spots, pale base coat. Endangered or protected species - items not to be generally  traded
LION - sandy red coloured, coarse leathery feel, flat pile. Used in East Africa particularly, for handbags. Endangered or protected species - not to be generally traded.
LYNX - full fluffy soft fur, cream background with vague black spots on brown background. Endangered or protected species -  items not to be generally traded.
The trade in post convention items made from species in annexe A of CITES is a criminal offense punishable under UK law by a fine not exceeding £5,000 and a prison sentence not exceeding 5 years.
Legal statement ... while the info is correct to the best of my knowledge, I can accept no responsibility for errors and would advise readers to seek advice from DEFRA .
This guide has taken a lot of researching so Please PLEASE RATE THIS BY CLICKING THE BOX BELOW if you found it helpful or informative in identifying your vintage furs. I have more photos but only ten are allowed.
Thanks for your time. Do have a look at my other popular guides on vintage fashion and car boot sales!
About the author -I have a degree in fashion and textile design from Kingston University UK and I have been interested in furs since a child - but I am NOT a furrier.
If you are, or you have specialist knowledge in this area and feel I can improve on this guide your comments / photos will be welcome.
No mail from activists please.
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