We've been having an interesting conversation with one of the research scientists at New Zealand's AgResearch Institute about how much fake merino is coming out of China. We'll be sending them our SEM images of the samples we've collected along with some actual samples, and they are going to run some fibre diameter distribution measurements on the samples as well. They've been doing a lot of work in this area and say that a comparison of the fibre distribution of a genuine NZ merino product with one of the Chinese imports could, in their words "reveal a lot".
The other method they are trying out is a more experimental one that has been the subject of a recent research project there, and is to use the ratio of stable isotopes of certain elements in the wool as a way to determine its geographical origin. They have been able to distinguish NZ-grown wool from overseas wool using this method for carpet wool, and have started working on it for merino as well.
All this should bode well for the consumer, as once UK Trading Standards have this information, it will be easier for them to deal with companies who are trying to pass off inferior wool as merino, or chemically altered coarser merino as superfine or even ultrafine merino.
|Mount Arrowsmith Station - one source of Zque merino wool|
There is one thing that should guide anyone thinking of buying merino - whether for outdoor gear or fashion - the genuine stuff is NOT CHEAP! It's rarer than cashmere! There is cheap stuff out there - but the chances of it being genuine Superfine, Ultrafine, or even Fine, NZ Merino is pretty much zilch!