Nothing telegraphs decadent, luxurious glamour like fur. During the Golden Era of Hollywood, fur coats and stoles draped the shoulders of every major star, from Rita Hayworth and Marilyn Monroe to Elizabeth Taylor and Audrey Hepburn.

Among the most coveted furs are mink, sable, ermine, and chinchilla. Part of their appeal is their shiny, silky, velvety texture. Sable and ermine were so prestigious in the Middle Ages, laws in certain countries decreed only royalty could wear them. And these furs are expensive, requiring as many as 55 minks, 100 chinchillas, or 125 ermines for a single coat.

Fox furs, which generally have much longer hair, were particularly popular from the 1930s to the 1950s. The 12 species of fox range in color from red, brown, and beige to blue, silver, and white, and it takes anywhere from 11 to 18 fox pelts to make a coat. Fox coats and stoles, particularly those produced before World War II, may have heads, feet, or tails intact. Fox is also a popular fur on coat collars.

Rabbit furs tend to be less expensive because rabbit is so common; before the 1970s, rabbit furs were often dyed to imitate more expensive furs like mink. Some rabbits are even bred to resemble the fluffy feathery pelts of chinchilla, a rodent native the Andes Mountains. Other rodents, like muskrats and opossums, are also used to imitate mink.

Certain furs, such as leopard, ocelot, margay, tiger, cheetah, bear, and otter, are restricted in the United States by the Endangered Species Act of 1973, which bans the trade of any product from one of the 2,000 animals on the endangered species list. Sellers can face fines up to $100,000 and possibly jail time.


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