The chamois of commerce is a variety of soft pliable leather obtained by tanning the skin of the animal of the same name belonging to the antelope species. The leather is used extensively for burnishing metals, jewelry, glass, precious stones, silverware, fine woods, etc., and also in some cases for linings, and as a filling in or pack for surgical instruments. A great deal of the leather sold in the shops is nothing but finely tanned sheepskin; but this is not nearly so soft or strong as the genuine article, although it is held at the extreme prices asked for the imported and real chamois-leather.
The animal known as the chamois chiefly inhabits the Alps and the Pyrenees Mountains in Europe, being found in flocks of from half a dozen up to a hundred in number. It is of an exceedingly wild nature, and has never been domesticated.
Chamois may be cleaned in a weak solution of soda in warm water. Rub plenty of soft soap into the leather, and allow it to soak for two hours. Then rub it well until it is quite clean, and rinse it well in a weak solution composed of soda, yellow soap, and warm water. If rinsed in water only, it becomes hard when dry, and unfit for use. After rinsing, wring it well in a coarse towel, and dry quickly. Then pull it about and brush it well, and it will become softer and better than most new leathers.
The chamois-skin used for wiping delicate articles should be carefully protected from dust and any hard foreign particles which are liable to scratch the highly polished surface of gold, silver, or glass.