Natural surface markings such as scars, wrinkles and insect bites are considered Signatures of Nature. These markings contribute to leather's natural character and ensure every hide is unique.
Choosing leather can be complicated and confusing as the industry is strewn with misleading terminology. And not understanding the type and origin of the leather you choose may negatively affect your project.
A by-product of the meat industry, the most dominant sources for bovine hides are Europe, USA and South America.
European and hides from the USA generally come from more pampered animals. There are few signatures of nature, fewer insect bites and less branding and they tend to be more expensive than South American hides.
South American hides are dominated by the ZEBU breed which has been developed to thrive in tropical climates, to be insect resistant and to give good milk yields. The particularly interesting feature of this breed is the “hump” on the back of the neck. While being of great value to the animal, the skin here is relatively weak and so in most cases is removed for tanning purposes resulting in a hole, or as commonly known as a "hump hole"
A lack of awareness of the zebu breed can lead to a belief that the leather is inferior because of the hump hole. In fact, the Zebu is perfectly suited for upholstering and less expensive than European or American hides. It is important to note that the area of the hump hole is excluded in the measurement of the hide. The hump hole won’t usually hinder the cutability of the hide, but with any leather, cutting overly large pieces may not be possible.
To understand leather we like to make an analogy with wood. In general:
Full Grain Leather is like Walnut:
Walnut is a less common, more expensive hardwood and need only be stained. Any differences in texture, grain and rings from plank to plank are considered naturally occurring, will show through the stain and will bring beauty to any project. Knowledgeable woodworkers will incorporate these naturally occurring marks as much as possible in their projects, making each piece unique.
Full grain leather comes from about 5% of (the best) hide production and its surface has not been altered by sanding or buffing. In this case the leathers natural grain is preserved and will contain natural surface markings such as scars, wrinkles and insect bites. These are considered Signatures of Nature which ensure every hide is unique. Knowledgeable leather artisans will incorporate rather than conceal these signatures which will accentuate the beauty and uniqueness of their project.
Corrected Grain Leather is like Pine:
A clear run pine plank is readily available and less expensive than walnut and will contain many more open knots and imperfections. It could be simply stained, but in general it will be sanded and painted to remove imperfections and make the wood as consistent as possible from plank to plank.
Corrected grain leather is similarly buffed (sanded), the degree to which being dependent on the quality of the hide and the quantity of markings that need to be “corrected”. Corrected grain leather is preferable when uniform colour from hide to hide is desired.
Pure Aniline vs Semi-Aniline:
Pure Aniline leather refers to the finer full grain hides which have been immersed in aniline dye only. They will feature a natural grain pattern, some subtle colour and shading differences from hide to hide and all the signatures of nature. Aniline leathers are sometimes susceptible to fading and stains but is the softest, most luxurious and natural looking leather. A waxy topcoat can be applied in the finishing process to give various degrees of lustre such as with our Tuscany leather.
Semi-Aniline leather is aniline-dyed leather with a light pigmentation and a clear sealant applied to provide colour consistency from hide to hide and stain resistance. Signatures of Nature will still be visible, but it is a high-quality, soft and beautiful, durable and practical leather. Techniques can be applied in the finishing process to produce an aged patina-like look and finished with a waxy topcoat to enhance its appearance such as with our Saloon leather.
Top Grain Leather:
This is often a sales tactic to make a leather sound “top of the line”, but top grain leather can be Full grain or Corrected grain. Prior to tanning, the hide is split into layers - the top called “top grain” and the bottom called “split grain.” While top Grain leathers retain strength imparted by the grain structure, splits are weaker deriving strength from the heavy finishes normally applied. Splits are generally used in shoe manufacturing; larger pieces used in upholstery are generally too weak for seating areas but may be appropriate for sides and outside backs of furnishings.
Our focus is leather - Real Leather
Not artificial, industrially manufactured “bonded leather” (plastic backed with leather dust), not “vegan leather” (chiefly made from polyurethane), and not vinyl. These are all cheaper, non-sustainable alternatives to leather, made from petro-chemicals and toxic to the environment.