Under Construction May 2011


Martes zibellina


Length: 30-45mm (ASM#1 2009)

Diameter Range: 72-176 microns (Brown 1942), 60-120 microns (Furskin 2006), 90-100 (ASM#1), 95 microns (ASM#2)

Medullary Index: 0.67 ave (Brown 1942). 0.69-0.75 (ASM#1) 0.8 (ASM #2)

Medulla: Medullary cells at the base robust, flattened, often joined together as in a horizontal “H” or “U” shape Cells in the medulla not separated by pigment masses, like we see in canids. (Brown 1942). Near the root the medulla is composed of tiny globule-shaped cells that are surrounded by a pocket of air which gives it the appearance of having a black outline. Further down the shaft these single cells turn into wide flat oval shapes that are closely stacked. The medulla changes again into rows, about three across the width of the medulla of small flat, rounded cells that are closely arranged and have dark outlines around each.  That is the majority of the hair length.  By the tip of the hair the medulla appears as bubble “H” letters or as vertebrae shapes. The medulla in one sample was 62.5 microns at the maximum width. (ASM #1) 75 microns max width for another sample  (ASM #2)

Color: Pigment sparse and even? There is no pigmentation throughout the medulla. Pigmentation is present in the cortex as a light red-brown appearing as a minimally pigmented water color wash ( ASM#1).

Scales:  Margins near the base of the hair are smooth, middle they get wavy and tip has toothy margins.  Scales are grooved at the base but smoother near the tip? (Furskin 2006)  One fiber shows a scale pattern that is consistent throughout the length of the hair and is in the form of flower petals, with each scale having its own point. A second fiber shows a transition from flower petal at the root end (proximal) and changes into the torn paper-like pattern. A third fiber shows a transition from flower petal to irregular torn paper pieces all stacked. (ASM # 1)  Some scales showed a fan-like or gingko-leaf shape with 10 microns as tip-to-tip scale length. (ASM # 2)



Length: 20-30mm (Furskin 2006), 25-30mm (ASM #1)

Diameter Range: 20-36 microns (Brown 1942), 12-20 microns (Furskin 2006), 17.5 (ASM#1), 15 microns (ASM #2)

Medullary Index: 0.56 ave (Brown 1942), 0.71 (ASM #1)

Medulla: Uniserial ladder with wide spaces between cells. The cells range in shape from disk or hockey puck to flattened disk, and some are slightly square (ASM #1).  Pop-bead with square or rectangle shapes.  Pigment appears in the medulla as specks or dots. Medulla seems to have parallel extinction (ASM #2).

Color: Faint reddish coloration which is absent in the medulla.

Scales: long narrow pointed petals

Macro Qualities: Finest sables used to be known as “crown” sables, from NE of Lake Baikal in Russia.  The tails are used for the finest artist brushes because they have a lot of “spring” at the tip of the tail  (Bachrach 1953).  Skin is 35-60cm long and the tail is 15-20cm long.  Fur is gray brown or blue brown and there are dark tips on the guard hairs.  (Furskin 2006)  Individual guard hairs have a gradual long taper at both ends (ASM #2)


Notes: ASM #1 is from the ASM education collection pelt ring, ASM #2 is from the Cargille Reference Set F-5 commercial furs

Kolinsky is actually Mustela sibirica, not sable.  The Siberian weasel called “kolinsky” is often used for paintbrushes.  It is the winter fur of the male Siberian weasel. 

Troubleshooting: Unfortunately, the data we have doesn’t make it easy to distinguish Mustela siberica (Kolinsky) from Mustela zibellina (sable.)  In fact, the original identification of the ASM # 1 sample is not particularly secure.  Did the person who labeled it in our collection know for certain?  We have a slide from the Cargille Reference Set for Kolinsky and it seems to have a diameter range around 98 microns and a medullary index of 0.7.  Cargille Reference Set is ASM #2 sample for sable.  Kolinsky is named for the Kola or Koln peninsula in European Russia.  Known for pale yellow coloring? (Samet 1950)  Cluster of hairs grow out of each follicle (Blazej et al 1989).

Range: Not native to Alaska, but may have been traded with Siberian peoples.

Names: Family Mustelidae (the mustelids) this is not to be confused with the “American Sable” more commonly known as a marten (ADF&G 2008)  A Hudson Bay Sable is the same as an American Marten (Samet 1950).  Among the Russian sables, the “crown sable’ is the best quality.  Come from Siberian area.  Often used as scarves commercially (Samet 1950).

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