In the early 1950â€™s, my husband and I used to go to the Paris flea marketâ€¦.â€ This is how Monique Levi-Strauss â€“ wife of the most famous living anthropologist, Claude Levi-Strauss â€“ begins the extraordinary account of a discovery: an adventure which began thirty years ago when cashmere shawls cost very little and did not arouse the passions that they had among the ladies of the 19th century. The first European to visit Kashmir in 1964 wrote of his amazement at the soft and delicate woollen shawls. The wild goats lose their winter fleece on rocks and bushes: because of the altitude, the pure air and the incomparable water, the wool is so soft and light that the cloth can, according to a Maghul legend, be pulled through a ring. It takes two men up to three years to weave the precious shawls, using an incredible phantasmagoria of colours. The cashmere shawl was discovered by English ladies at the end of the 18th century, at a time when a magical Oriental influence was visible in Europe fashion and art: Napoleon's soldiers, returning home from the campaign in Egypt, introduced the fashion in France, Lady Hamilton and Nelson took it to Naples and the painter, Vigee Le Brun, to St. Petersburg. The shawl was a popular wedding present and Napoleon's gifts to his second wife, Marie-Louise, included seventeen shawls : "Many of the aristocratic ladies who formed part of the Imperial couple's wedding procession in 1810, had a Cashmere shawl carefully folded over one arm as they progressed through the Great Gallery of the Louvre." A flourishing industry developed in Europe, encouraged by the invention of the Jacquard loom. "The characteristic floral motif, with pine or cypress patterns, architectonic motifs, animal and human figures, covered the entire surface area of the shawl in an extraordinary creative development which followed all the whims and fancies of 19 century European fashion. Monique Levi-Strauss, with much patience, historical intuition and unfailing good taste, has followed the evolution of styles and decorative motifs, explored the hidden symbolism and affectations of the fashion, and rediscovered the splendid original designs-until now unpublished-bringing to light the "relics of an ancient treasure.