For many, fur is a soft, warm and elegant material that is synonymous with high-end fashion. Long hailed as the look of luxury, there are many different kinds available, and often, they can be hard to tell apart from one and another. Amoung two of the most commonly confused furs are mink and muskrat. Though they may seem similar to the untrained eye, they are actually quite different. Not to worry though, a few simple tricks can help you discern between their unique characteristics, making it easier for you to choose a coat that is best suited to your needs.
Mink and muskrat basics
Mink are semi-aquatic mammals that are part of the mustelidae family, which includes animals such as the weasel, otter and ferret. American mink are larger than European mink, and their fur is generally thicker and glossier. Mink fur is soft to the touch and can come in a variety of colours, ranging from black and white to reddish brown. Muskrats are semi-aquatic rodents that are part of the arvicolinae family, which includes other rodent species such as voles and lemmings. They have two layers of hair: a course outer hair, and a softer undercoat of insulating hairs. The muskrat's inner layer of fur is also soft to the touch, though not as soft as mink. In general, the colours range from black and brown to silver.
Mink fur characteristics
Most mink fur coats are made from special, domestically-bred mink. Over the years, breeders have been able to create a multitude of luxurious coloured breeds, so many in fact, that there is a mink rainbow of 17 tones that range from white and silver blue cross to topal and scan black. Good mink fur is generally described as being thick, uniform in colour and lightweight. It is also soft and glossy. The leather should be well-oiled, soft and the hair should not fall when pulled.
Muskrat fur characteristics
Muskrat fur coats come in a variety of colours and are made from both domestically bred muskrats and wild caught muskrats. Black muskrats which generally come from the East Coast of the United States and Canada, have a deep brown/black fur that is soft, full and warm. Muskrats from other areas in North America generally have brown hair on the back, golden hair on the sides and silver hair on the belly. The skins are matched and sewn together, with the back fur being the most prized. To create a more uniform appearance in colour, sometimes the muskrat fur will be dyed. Good muskrat fur is thick, soft and durable. It is often the fur of choice for those seeking a warm, all-purpose fur. The leather should also be soft and the hair should not fall out when pulled.
Mink coat prices
Many tend to judge the quality of a mink coat by its price. However, though good mink coats are expensive (they can range from £5000 to £10,000 or $7,500 to $15,000 USD), you must ensure that the quality is up to par with the hefty price tag. To discern whether your mink coat is worth its value, you should first assess the amount of material that is used. If it is a short coat, has various kinds of material added to it, and is not very warm, then it should be cheaper. If it is long, 100% mink fur and warm, then it will be more expensive. Always check the coat materials label to ensure what your coat is actually made of, as many fur coats nowadays are a combination of furs, faux furs and other materials.
Muskrat coat prices
Historically, muskrat fur has been regarded as the cheaper alternative to mink. Many feel the animal's classification as a rodent, in addition to the slightly rougher fur, categorizes it in a cheaper price range. However, over the past few years, the prices for muskrat fur and muskrat fur coats has increased dramatically due to a shortage of mink breeders internationally. This, in effect, caused the prices of muskrat fur to increase (most recently in 2012), so when purchasing your coat, you may want to look into market prices for muskrat pelts to ensure you are paying the right amount. As of 2012, prices for coats ranged from £600 to £3500 or $1000 to $4000 USD.
Mink coat characteristics
Because mink are small creatures, a coat will require many pelts that are sewn together. You should be able to see or feel the stitching, or your salesperson should be able to show you. If there is no stitching, the coat could be made from another animal. The inner leather should feel like suede or soft leather, be uniform in colour and have one or two layers of protective lining. The hair should also be a uniform length. If the fur is a bright and unnatural colour, then, likely, it has has been dyed. Some people recommend avoiding dyed fur because the process can damage and dry out the fur, and also may bleed colour in the rain.
Muskrat coat characteristics
Generally, muskrat coats use the back hair of the animal for the base, and the less durable and light-coloured belly hair for the trim. The natural colours are black, brown and silver (from the belly). However, it is very common for many muskrat coats to be dyed. Depending on whether the coat is sheared or not, the hair can have both the undercoating of hair and outercoating of hair, but more expensive pieces will mainly stick with the softer undercoating. Like mink, the muskrat pelts will be sewn together, so there should be evidence of seaming, and a good quality coat will have at least two layers of lining. The hair should be soft, uniform and the weight slightly heavier than a mink coat. Brittle hair indicates poor quality and over-dying.