Buying a genuine top-notch leather product is often rather tricky, requiring a keen eye to recognize the quality of leather and even so it is very difficult to determine its real quality. For average buyers leather is just leather but many of you know that this is not quite true. Different types of leather are often used by the manufacturers depending on the desired end result.
We at Design de Valeur take the quality of leather very seriously which is why we want to make our customers aware of quality differences across various leather types.
When buying leather products you have likely noticed labels such as top grain or split leather – these are simply different types of leather. Knowing how to distinguish between leather types and why some last longer than others will save you a lot of money in a long run and help you understand the price difference between the products.
Above all, the quality of leather depends on the following:
• The breed and type of animal
• The climate and physical location of the animal
• The part of the hide the leather was cut from
• The skill of processing and tanning
• The layer of the hide that is being used (full grain, top grain, split)
The quality of leather depends on the portion of the hide
The quality of leather depends
heavily on the part of the hide used and there are a number of factors at play. The lower portions tend to have looser fibers which act as a sponge and swell under wet conditions. Also, the lower parts are usually marked by insects and damage from obstacles like barbed wire. And it should be noted that the hide is more wrinkled around the legs, head and neck and tends to maintain those wrinkles even after processing.
The quality varies greatly across cow breeds due to different genetic and environmental factors. For example, cows that live in a hotter climate tend to have scars from insect bites unlike cows living in a colder climate. Plus, some breeds have more protective hair and thicker skin due to weather conditions.
Choosing the right layers make a huge difference
Different layers of the hide have a huge impact on quality as top grain and full grain leather are considered to be the best.
Full grain leather is made from the top layer of the hide and includes all the grain. This part retains its toughness and durability as well as the imperfections because there is no splitting.
Top grain leather is the second highest grade leather. The top layer of skin from the blemished hides is split to obtain top grain leather after which the imperfections are removed by sanding. Pigmentation or straining is also used to give the leather a more appealing look. This makes top grain smoother and more flexible than full grain. Top grain is relatively durable but tends to stretch permanently over time. It is also used to produce suede and nubuck. It should be noted that most high-end products are made of top grain leather.
Corrected grain (bottom cut/split) leather also known as genuine leather is produced by using the skin layers that remain after the top is split off. Split leather is usually tougher in texture as it is located under the top layers. It is mostly used where soft leather is not required such as furniture backs and sides. It is also sanded to remove imperfections – just like top grain – and the surface is usually spray-painted and embossed with a pattern resembling leather. Common uses include jackets, various bags, accessories, furniture and footwear.
Bonded leather is made up of leftovers which are bonded together using polyurethane or latex on top of a fiber sheet. It is often spray-painted to look like true full or top grain leather. An this is rather problematic because it is virtually impossible to determine the percentage of natural leather unless disclosed by the manufacturer. It is worth noting that bonded leather is the cheapest and lowest grade of leather.
These are the four basic types of leather although there is a wide range of options available based on the percentage of organic material used as well as durability and the finishing process. They include aniline leather, semi-aniline leather, antique grain leather, chrome-free leather, chrome tanned leather, corrected grain pigmented leather, pigmented leather, crust, embossed leather, finished split leather, good hand leather, kidskin leather, latigo, nappa leather, nubuck leather, oil tanned leather, patent leather, pebble grain leather, pigmented leather, printed leather, pull-up leather, saffiano leather, skirting leather, suede, tooling calf leather and waxy hand leather, which we will address in another article.
Leather thickness plays a critical role in determining the end product
The thickness of leather plays a critical role in deciding what could be made of it. Thicker hides are often used to create items such as saddlebags, dog collars, leather belts and holsters, while thinner ones are used to make clothing, furniture, embossing and linens.
Thickness is often measured in ounces whilst millimetres and inches are also used. Usually, an ounce of leather equals 1/64 of an inch. That being said the thickness of leather varies slightly although split leather is usually more consistent in thickness than a raw hide. Nevertheless, some variation can still occur.
Various criteria determine the quality of leather
As you can see, various factors are in play when it comes to the quality of leather and it is rather difficult if not impossible to determine the quality of leather at first sight which is why it is essential to source your leather products from a trusted vendor.
Design de Valeur manufactures its products using leather of the highest quality yet maintaining an affordable price range and offering a unique design. This is what makes our company stand out from the competitors as you can always count on us to provide you with top-notch products. Why spend your hard-earned money on sub-par leather goods when you can purchase our high-end products at an affordable price? Please take a look at our product range and get yourself an item that will actually last!