Leather articles are traditionally decorated using a process known as hallmarking. Metal templates – called punches – are moulded into shapes to create lines and patterns to be embossed into the leather. Punches are available in a wide variety of shapes and sizes, including crests, leaf shapes and ornaments.

Leather Hallmarking

Thicker, vegetable-tanned, leather with a fine scar is preferred because it has the stability necessary to hold and display the designs. The design is imprinted with a hammer onto a sponge or cloth and applied to the moistened leather. Then, the punch is used and the process is repeated until the desired pattern is achieved. 

This all sounds easy but, as with all artistic and skilled work, it takes talent to create leather motifs. However, with a little practice, the hallmarking technique can be learned.  

Embossed leather can add further embellishment when painted with gold leaf or with transparent shades on the leather patina. Western leather saddles, belts or bags are hallmarked frequently. Hallmarking had its heyday in Europe in the Middle Ages. Today, this luxurious leather decorating technique is rare. For example, in Germany, it is estimated that less than 10% of all saddlers practise hallmarking. In the US, hallmarking is still relatively common. 

Lasers are a new – and easier – method of applying hallmarks. Computer-generated images are burnt into the leather surface, removing the need for special manual labour.

                                        Leather Hallmarking     Laser embossed Harley-Davidson leather saddle.jpg 

Various tools are used to deform the leather fibres when hallmarking leather

                                        Leather Hallmarking Tools     Hallmarking alphabet 

Embroidery

This is best carried out on industrial embroidery machines for textiles and leather. Embroidery machines are described by the number of needles. For example, a 6-needle machine, allows 6 colours to be embroidered simultaneously. Yarns come in all colours, including neon colours. The maximum size for a 6 needle machine is roughly 30 x 20 cm and most typical leathers can be embroidered.

                                        Ferrari logo embroidered on leather     Lufthansa logo embroidered on leather

Piping

Piping refers to the narrow, rounded edge around car or furniture upholstery. It is generally made of leather but, in vehicles, synthetic leather is sometimes used. Automobile leathers commonly have piping. Most match the rest of the leather but occasionally the piping comes in a different colour.  

In the leather workshop leather can be re-coloured where it has deteriorated through use. Care must be taken with different coloured leathers. The time required for colour correction increases greatly when the piping or the seams are in a different colour.