RED LEAF LEATHER QUALITY
Knowing the type of leather one is buying is extremely important – you don’t want to pay high quality prices for a low quality product! Read below to see which type of leather is the highest quality, most durable, and ages with beauty (hint: it’s the kind I use!).
FULL GRAIN LEATHER
The strongest and most durable part of an animal is just below the hair. The grain pattern in this part of the hide is very tight and the leather made from here is called “full grain” leather. Because the grain is so tight, it makes the leather very resistant to moisture. Full grain leather, over time and with handling, develops a natural “patina” and will only look more beautiful the longer you use it. This allows your leather product to truly age with beauty!
Full grain leather is not sanded to remove any markings or blemishes, which adds a unique look to the leather. It may show scars from the cow rubbing against barbed wire, from bug bites, and even brands from the rancher. The custom product may come with a few of these markings, but these slight imperfections and markings showcase the product’s uniqueness and handcrafted nature.
All of the leather I purchase is full grain leather because it allows me to provide each customer with a high quality, durable, and luxurious leather product that will only become more beautiful and more unique with age.
TOP GRAIN LEATHER
“Top grain leather” is the second highest grade because it is split from the top layer of leather, sanded, and then refinished. This removes those blemishes and marks and leaves a smooth finish; however, the sanding process also removes the strongest fiber, which leaves fibers that are easily pulled apart. Because of this, top grain leather does not hold up well with repeated use.
While “genuine leather” sounds like a good thing, don’t be fooled by the name. This is the third grade of leather and is produced from the layers of hide that remain after the top is split off for the better grades. The surface is usually refinished by being spray painted to resemble a higher grade. The end result can be a leather that is either smooth or rough.
“Bonded leather” is the lowest grade of leather and not worth it! This leather is made from the dust and shavings of the leather that are then glued and pressed together. Leftover scraps are ground together with glue and resurfaced in a process similar to vinyl manufacture. Bonded leather is weak and degrades quickly with use. So while it may be leather, it is nowhere near the quality of leather I feel comfortable using for my products.
All my leather, with the exception of the bags, is tanned using the Vegetable Tanning Process because this allows for stamping text and designs into the leather. The veg-tanning process is also the most eco-friendly, and allows the leather to develop the natural “patina” with use, and can literally last a lifetime!
VEGETABLE TANNING PROCESS
Just as the name suggests, this process is done using an organic method which relies on natural vegetable tannins from bark or other plant tissues. Tannins are pulled from plants, barks, leaves, branches, and in some instances fruits. This process takes about two months and leaves one with a truly natural and organic leather that has a woody, earthy smell. Vegetable-tanning does not involve the use of chromium, which is a known carcinogen, or any other harmful or toxic chemicals.
BENEFITS OF VEG-TANNED LEATHER
- Leaves the leather looking and feeling natural and organic
- Extremely durable and strong
- Has a neutral effect on the health of the user
- Can last an entire lifetime
- Acquires a unique and beautiful “patina” with use
- The most eco-friendly of all the tanning processes
CHROME TANNING PROCESS
This tanning process is the most popular and controversial, due to its widespread use in the fashion industry. It is effective and fast (within only a few days) to produce a soft and uniform leather. The raw appearance, before it is dyed and painted, is pale blue in color and with a strong chemical smell that frequently remains in the final product. But the use of chromium salts is harmful to the human and environmental health, it is a carcinogenic, persistent and indestructible chemical. Despite being publicly recognized for these significant downsides, it is still the most used method in the fashion industry.
ALDEHYDE TANNING PROCESS
This process is advertised as the “chromium-free” method and mainly used in the automotive, clothing, and footwear industry, and its raw appearance is very pale, almost white. But the formaldehyde, base chemical in this process, is dangerous, and the toxicity of the resulting leather should be strictly controlled, which does not always happen when the industry is rushing for big, fast results.