The first chinchillas, shaded and smoke cats were Persian Longhairs with black (less frequently blue) tipping or shading on a near-white undercoat. These were the Black Smoke, Chinchilla (also known as the Self Silver) and the Shaded Silver. Early Chinchilla and Shaded Silver cats were derived from silver tabbies and were less well differentiated than their modern counterparts - some early Chinchillas might today be classed as poorly defined Shaded Silvers; some also had distinct tabby markings. Orange-eyed Shaded Silvers were originally preferred and are now known as Pewters or Pewter Tipped. For a while the Masked Silver was bred - this was a Shaded Silver Persian with darker face and paws.
Silver-undercoated Persians appeared very early on in the days of the cat fancy. Smoke Persians were described as far back as the 1860s and were believed to result from mating between blacks, blues and whites. In 1872, Weir described a cat as "a beauty was shown at Brighton, which was white with black tips to the hair, the white being scarcely visible unless the hair was parted." The Smokes soon got a class of their own and their numbers rapidly increased. In Britain, dark Smokes are preferred, while American cat fanciers seemingly prefer lighter colour cats.
At the British National Cat Show in 1879, one of the entrants was described as "a strangely graduated grey". Since the Smoke was already familiar, this was most likely a Shaded Silver.
The origin of the Chinchilla Persian as a breed lies in a female cat called Chinnie, born in 1882. Silver Tabbies and Black Smokes were already known at that time. Chinnie was probably either a Silver Mackerel Tabby or a Spotted Tabby Longhair (the spotted pattern is dissipated by the long hair) and would have had weak markings (heavy by modern standards). Her exact ancestry is unknown though it includes prize winning grandparents on one side and a stray tomcat on the other. Chinnie was evidently unusual enough for interested parties to want to breed similar cats from her. She was mated to Fluffy I who was a very pure Silver with undecided tabby markings" (might also have been Chinchilla).
Sadly, many of Chinnie and Fluffy I's offspring died or strayed, and Fluffy I himself vanished in 1886. However one of their descendants, Beauty, was mated to a Smoke and produced the first recognisable Chinchilla in Champion Silver Lambkin who practically set the standard for the breed. The Chinchilla was recognised (got its own class) in 1894. Beauty continued to produce kittens and her descendants were mated to blues, silver tabbies and others. Blotched tabby, mackerel tabby and dilution were introduced into the gene pool from those very early days. Both tabby patterns can be seen in newborn kittens.
In 1903 Frances Simpson described Chinchilla shading as "a short of bluish lavender to the tips of the coat", and "delicate tips of silvery-blue". Breeders of the time describe it as "palest silver, lavender tint and lighter - in fact practically white - at the roots " and "pure silver of a bluish tinge". In 1907, the Chinchilla was also known as the Self Silver "A good self-silver has fur that is white at the roots and shades softly to a faint grey at the tips. The colour is rather that of old-fashioned silver lustre ware than of modern silver. The ideal self-silver must have neither markings nor shadings, nor must there be any black tips to the hair, either oh the back of in the tail or elsewhere". Only in 1930 did the standard refer to the tipping as "black".
Early Chinchillas had a range of levels of tipping and some confusion as to how much tipping was ideal. Orange eyes were preferred and in 1895, "Fur and Feather" carried an article regarding a green-eyed Chinchilla, "It is useless to think of exhibiting her on account of her green eyes". Green eyes later became a standard - and distinctive - feature of Chinchillas.
In 1900 the Silvers class was split into Silver Tabbies, Chinchillas (light tipping) and Shaded Silver (heavy tipping). Then, as now, there were many cats which fell somewhere between tipped and shaded, plus different judges had different ideas as to where the line should be drawn. The same cat was sometimes rejected from both classes (due to different judges' opinions) or was sometimes entered into both classes and won in both! The Chinchilla and Shaded Silver classes were combined to prevent confusion.
In 1926, after a curious cat ("a mixture of colours") owned by Mrs Boutcher won the Any Other Colour class, Lord Sylvester suggested the starting of a new breed called "Marked Silvers". The suggestion was not taken up. The cat was likely a silver tabby or shaded silver with markings of some colour other than black. In 1927, HC Brooke commented that some 50 years previously, there existed a pretty variety of short-hair tabby that was, in 1927, quite extinct. The ground colour was a creamy tint and the markings were always rather narrow and were reddish-brown. Since "sandy-coloured" or "lemony" red tabbies were frowned upon by cat fanciers, quite possibly this was a red-silver tabby. Red and cream Chinchillas appeared in the USA in 1934 through breeding Silver Chinchillas to Red Self Persians.
In 1951, Soderberg wrote wrote that the Chinchilla was unsuited to living in industrialised town! "It is a light-coated cat which is perhaps hardly suitable to the soot and grime of large industrial towns, but it is doubtful whether it needs much more attention than its darker-coated fellows."
In the 1990s, breeders were concerned that Chinchilla cats were becoming ultra-typed like other Persians. Traditionally, the Chinchilla retained the longer muzzle. In America this resulted in a new breed classification, the Sterling, for the traditional-type Chinchillas. Older-style Chinchillas are more popular with members of the public, but the showbench Chinchilla seems to be moving inexorably towards the squashed-in look of other Persians. Outcrossing to other, already ultra-typed, Persian varieties is losing the old Chinchilla look. The photos below show cats of both types.
The Burmilla is a tipped silver cat of Asian/European Burmese type. Burmillas arose in 1981 as a result of an accidental mating of a lilac Burmese female and a Chinchilla male. This produced four Black Shaded Silver kittens of Burmese type and with a short, dense coat. The following year, there was a planned mating of a Blue Burmese female with the same Chinchilla male. These were the founding cats of the Burmilla variety although there have been a number of Burmese-to-Chinchilla matings since then in order to widen the gene pool. The Burmilla was recognised by FIFe in 1994. Although a relatively young breed, it is already extremely popular. In addition to the Burmilla there are also Asian Smoked and Asian Shaded Silver cats in a variety of different top colours.
A slightly different form of tipped fur is found in the Chausie, a breed derived from hybridising F chaus (Jungle Cat) with the domestic cat. Black Chausies with silver tipped fur occur and this is belived to be a form of black agouti rather than smoke/shaded or chinchila