Identifying Vintage Fur
The Furs that I sell
Firstly I would like to explain that I only ever sell Vintage furs. I do not condone the selling and wearing of new fur. All of the furs that I sell are not from endangered species and have been checked against the CITES (Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species) checklist. They do not require a CITES licence to sell them.
Buying a vintage fur coat or jacket is usually an expensive investment. So often coats are labelled incorrectly; for instance, many amateur sellers think that a fur coat is automatically a 'mink coat'. The following pictures provide some assistance in identifying the most common range of furs available at vintage fairs or in vintage shops:
Mink fur is luxurious.There are many different grades of mink fur, and good examples of items made of this fur are often very expensive. The mink is a semiaquatic animal. There are two sub species; the American and European mink. Mink fur is shiny and slightly waxy to the touch. The guard hairs (the longer ones on top) are quite short. The fur from the female mink is softer and lighter in weight than the male. Mink Fur products can be found in a variety of colours.
Fox fur is a popular choice for coats, collars and trims. It can be found in natural hues or dyed. The examples in the photographs are natural colours.
Rabbit (or Coney)
Rabbit fur is super soft and comes in a variety of natural or dyed shades. It is sometimes labelled as coney. Rabbit is one of the cheapest furs, making jackets and coats accessible to most pockets.
Squirrel fur is short and soft. It is one of my favourites as it is not bulky to wear. Naturally, the fur is found in grey or red; however, it is often dyed different shades. Russian and Siberian squirrels are thought to have some of the best skins; their fur is thick and soft. The photograph shows a Russian squirrel vintage fur.
Ermine fur comes from a stoat. In the winter, the fur turns white, apart from the black tip of the tail. It is this white fur that is most prized. In the summer, the fur of the stoat is brown. The white fur is often found on ceremonial robes. Often the black tips of the tail are incorporated into the design of the item, as can be seen in the example photograph. It is a silky and soft fur.
Musquash fur is often the most confused with mink. It was a popular fur in the past as it was a more affordable fur than mink. The fur comes from the muskrat, a semiaquatic medium sized rodent native to North America. Muskrat provide food and fur for humans. Typically the guard hairs are longer than those found on a mink, with dense, soft underfur. Usually found in shades of brown. Items made from musquash remain a cheaper alternative to mink and are easily found at vintage fairs and in vintage shops.
When purchasing, condition is also important and can hugely affect the price of an item. Check for any guard hair loss, rips or tears. Check that the coat does not show signs of dry rot, and that the coat is soft and supple. Dry rot is when fur and leather has dried up and the natural oils in the leather and hairs of the fur have evaporated. This makes fur fall out and the leather become thin and susceptible to tearing. If the skin is hard and sounds like paper when you squeeze it, most probably the item has dried out, and is best avoided.
It is important to store your coat in the correct conditions. If the fur that you have purchased is worth a considerable amount of money, you might consider having it professionally stored during the summer months, however, more often than not owners prefer to keep their items at home. To help preserve your item, keep furs away from direct sunlight and heat sources, in a place that isn’t damp and is not too warm. Hang your item on a quality hanger, and leave plenty of room around it so that it is not squashed. Do not use plastic garment bags to cover; cotton bags or even a cotton sheet are preferable if you have to cover them. Do not use moth balls or cedar products to prevent moth infestation as these can damage the fur and leather. Seek alternative methods.
Seek specialist advice should you need to clean your coat. Specialists usually advise to clean coats yearly. If you choose to do this make sure that you send your item to a fur specialist, as normal dry cleaning methods are not suitable.
Fur garments can be re-glazed by specialists if necessary, which helps maintain fur shine.
As is the case with all vintage items, make sure that repairs are undertaken in a timely manner, as it is far easier to deal with a smaller issue. Fur specialists usually offer a repair service. I am unable to recommend a particular specialist, and suggest that you enquire in your local area should you need to use the services of such a firm.
Please note that due to the high volume of requests, unfortunately I am unable to offer an identification service for individuals who own fur coats.