When purchasing a leather product it is important (or even just nice) to know what kind of leather it is that you are essentially paying for. You need to be mindful of its quality, which will depend on the type of leather from which it is made of, especially when the price tag also calls for some clarification.
To most average shoppers, all leathers are “the same”, which couldn’t be further from the truth! By reading this quick guide, it will provide some clarity, create awareness and help expand your knowledge so you may be able to distinguish between all the different kinds of leather.
In general, there are four types of leather. These include Full Grain Leather, Top Grain Leather, Corrected Grain Leather and Bonded Leather. Let’s discuss each below in more depth:
FULL GRAIN LEATHER
Full grain leather comes from the top layer of the hide. It includes all the grain and therefore it is called full grain leather. It retains the inherent toughness, as well as the imperfections because there is neither any surface alteration nor any splitting involved. It is therefore the highest quality of leather available and is by far the most expensive.
It is commonly and by principle the only leather used for saddlebacks and premium sought-after leather products. It also absorbs body oils and develops a patina (a gloss or sheen on the surface resulting from age and wear) over time, a characteristic that also contributes to its popularity.
TOP GRAIN LEATHER
Top grain is the second highest grade of leather and it is usually obtained by splitting the top layer of skin from blemished hides. The surface is sanded to get rid it of inherent imperfections, which subsequently makes it smoother and more flexible than full grain leather. Pigmentation or staining is also used to make the leather look a bit more attractive.
Although it is strong and durable, it tends to stretch permanently over time. It is commonly used for suede and nubuck-making as well as for most high-end products like handbags and jackets.
CORRECTED GRAIN LEATHER
Corrected grain or split leather is also known as genuine leather and it is basically made from the skin layers that remain after the top is split off. It tends to be tougher in texture due to the fact that it resides under the top layers and is mostly used in instances where the leather is not required to be soft, for example furniture backs and sides. As with top grain leather, corrected grain leather is also sanded in order to remove natural imperfections. Usually, its surface is spray-painted and embossed with a leather-like pattern to resemble a natural appearance. However, this kind of processing alters the leather’s inherent breathability.
It is commonly used to make jackets, messenger bags, furniture, accessories etc.
Bonded leather is made up of all the leftovers of the hide. This includes dust and shavings which are bonded together using polyurethane or latex on top of a fibre sheet and is often spray-painted to look like full or top grain leather. Bonded leather is therefore the lowest and cheapest grade of leather and you cannot determine the percentage of natural leather unless the manufacturer chooses to disclose it, which is very unlikely.
It is commonly used to make fashion accessories and book binding.
To us quality and attention to detail truly matters and therefore Oliver Vagary’s leather is full-grain treated with aniline dyes. Aniline leather is the most natural leather with minimal resistance to soiling (meaning it doesn’t get dirty or blacken at the bottom) and is purely beautiful. In general, all soft and tanned animal hides, such as Napa, are dyed in a drum with aniline dyes exclusively. Aniline dyes are translucent and water-soluble dyes that bring out the natural markings, scars, and wrinkles in the hide. It also develops a natural patina (shine / gloss) over time and with each wear. It is durable, long-lasting and ages beautifully. All of our leather hides that we use are a by-product of the food industry.
Oliver Vagary believes that leather items should be able to become inheritance pieces one day and thus we craft our products with this vision and goal in mind. In order for yours to become an inheritance piece we recommend treating leather items with delicate care by using our leather conditioner which will provide sufficient TLC over time.
We pride ourselves on the fact that all our leather products are locally handcrafted within South Africa and are not imported. None of our items are mass produced and is thoroughly inspected beforehand. We also wrap all of our leather items so that it is always gift-ready should it be purchased as a present. To us attention to detail is of utmost importance in order to create timeless pieces that will make you always look twice and smile.