Know Your Leather

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Good leather should last you a life time.

here's a guide created by us at Vintage Child to let you know about all the different and varying features of the leather sold in the UK and here in our workshops.

Leathers come from different animals around the world and are produced in different ways to change the natural appearance, quality and durability.


Definition of Leather:

"A material made from the rawhide and skin of an animal by tanning or a similar process."

types of leather

The Leather we use here at Vintage Child:  Buffalo, Goat, Cow and Calf.

The variation in the grain pattern on leather is caused by the type of animal skin.  Each will have distinctive differences caused by the hairs and pores of each animal.

Cattle – (65% of leather products) The grain will be consistent and closely packed.  Cattle hides are split into two layers (the top is better)

Buffalo – Similar to cow in characteristics but tends not to be split so is thicker.

Sheep – (20% of leather products) The grain of these will be less consistent to cattle. They also create weaker leather due to the looseness of the fibres which are also half the thickness. They are softer than cow leather and usually have a wrinkled effect.

Goat – (5% of leather products) These skins produce better suede than cow and are more durable than sheep leather, the grains will have attractive large patterns with smaller ones around them. Goat leather is most often used for luxury fashion products because of it's soft texture.

Pig – (10% of leather products) These skins show less markings but tend to have larger pores. Used mainly for suede.

brass buckles

Animal hides have a top and bottom layer:

  • The top layer is compact and will show the natural markings of the animal.
  • The bottom layer has looser fibers and will not show the markings.

Full-grain leather/Aniline

hide layers

  • Made from the top layer and wholegrains.
  • The most natural looking leather
  • The grain surface is kept natural before the surface coating is applied therefore imperfections will remain, creases will be distinct.
  • This is the strongest type of leather usually found on luggage and wallets although they are less resistant to damage so ageing will occur.
  • Strong, Durable and Natural-looking, feel like real skin and are light and flexible

strong and durable

Top-grain leather/Semi-Aniline

  • Real leather
  • The top layer is processed to get rid of natural markings and blemishes, this reduces some of the leathers natural strength but coatings are applied to improve durability.
  • Can be used as embossed animal prints, cheaper than the real thing i.e. snake
  • Most commonly used in high-end leather products
  • Durable, Textured, Consistent in colour and stain resistant

top grain leather

Corrected-grain leather/Pigmented

  • The surface is processed to remove imperfections
  • Artificial grain is applied to the surface
  • A grain pattern is embossed into the surface after the process to improve durability
  • This is very durable but has a less natural appearance and can feel like plastic
  • This leather is used in the majority of furniture and car upholstery.
Corrected grain leather

    Split leather

    • The bottom section of a hide is used
    • A polymer coating is applied and embossed to mimic grain leather.
    • Split leather should only be used for lower stressed items because they are a lot weaker than the other types of leather.
    • The surface coating can vary in thickness but if it is more than 0.15mm then the product can't be sold as leather in the United Kingdom.
    split leather

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