Leathers can differ enormously and the term ‘genuine leather’ is often abused.
To help in making an educated choice when buying leather products, the following information
compiled from various sources, should be useful.
The quality of leather is determined mainly by the condition of the grain/surface. In general leather is sold in four
Full-grain – Hides that have not been sanded or buffed to remove imperfections. The grain remains
allowing fibre strength and durability. The grain also has breathability. It does not wear out but develops a patina
Top-grain – The most common type in high-end leather products is the second highest quality. It has had the “split”
layer separated away and its surface has been sanded and a finish coat added. It has greater stain resistance than
Corrected-grain – Any leather that has had an artificial grain applied to its surface. Imperfections are sanded off, an
artificial grain embossed into the surface and dressed with stain or dyes.
Split leather – This is created from the fibrous part of the hide left once the top- grain has been separated. It then
has an artificial layer applied to the surface and is embossed with a leather grain.
It cannot be considered equal to conventional leather, lacking strength, breathability and durability.
Splits are also used to create suede.
The finishes applied to leather can be categorised as follows :
Analine – This leather is dyed exclusively with soluble dyes without covering the surface with a topcoat or insoluble
pigments. The resulting product retains the hide’s natural grain etc and only high quality leathers are suitable for
this finish. This leather is not protected from stains or damage.
Semi-Analine – This is produced in a similar process but has a thin protective top coat ,which may include a small
quantity of pigment, added to protect it from wear and staining. Pull up analine leather has additional oil or wax
applied to the leather to give it a distressed look.
Pigmented leather – This is the most durable but least natural in appearance. The finish contains
pigments making it semi opaque and depending on the thickness of the coating, less supple and breathable.
Other interesting considerations regarding leather :
– Leather is a by-product of cattle and sheep reared for the production of meat.
– The leather industry utilises hides and skins which would create an enormous waste disposal problem
with attendant health hazards, if the industry did not process them.
– Leather is a renewable natural resource, if not produced, it would have to be replaced by synthetic
materials derived from non-renewable resources.
– Leather makes a contribution to the quality of everyday life and has done so for centuries.