Soft Natural Leather

 

Leather is a natural product and therefore the quality is inconsistent, with significant differences occurring from breed to breed and even within the same species.  

Gender, age, nutrition, feeding and general care all affect an animal’s skin.

Differences in quality of cow leather (but also applies to other species):

  • Age: The quality of hides from older animals is generally poorer than that of younger animals.
  • Gender: The structure of female hides has a denser fibre and a finer grain. Also the stability of the skin’s fibre structure deteriorates the more often a male animal mates and, for a female, the number of times she gives birth. Castrated oxen tend to have a finer skin structure.
  • Nutrition: Fresh forage promotes better quality skin.
  • Animal husbandry: The skin of animals kept on open pastures has a superior texture.
  • Climate: A harsh and cold climate favours a good skin quality.

Diverse demands are placed on leather, depending on its use. Furniture leather should be easy to maintain, while being soft and warm. Shoe leather should be robust, waterproofed, soft, heat-retaining and breathable. Car leather needs to be simple to look after and be able to withstand heat, cold and wear. 

However it’s used, leather should be durable and easy to clean. It should not tear, bleach, smell unpleasant or contain pollutants. These are the essential ‘leather qualities’ or ‘leather properties’. 

However, leather can't be extremely soft, porous, robust and easy to clean and maintain all at the same time. Unfortunately, people often think that the high price tag of that luxury leather jacket or set of furniture means that it should be easy to clean and maintain. But, in fact, the opposite is true. Valuable leathers are as sensitive as silk.  With regular use the beauty diminishes rapidly, while incorrect cleaning can even ruin the material. 

Tanners and manufacturers of leather goods should establish their own, verifiable, quality parameters and check them regularly. These parameters should take into account the animal species and the rawhide. Differences in the quality of the individual sections of a skin, including the possibility of damage when cutting, must also be considered. Additionally, in sensitive leathers, differences occur from batch to batch. Only a limited quantity of skins can be worked upon at any given time during the manufacturing process of leather and all of them do not behave the same in each run. Often the tanner will need to make small changes during the process, which can lead to deviations from batch to batch. Depending on the bandwidth of the established quality limits, it should be possible to identify differences. 

Apart from the production quality, the longevity of leather depends on certain other factors too. An important element for long-lasting enjoyment of a leather object is the handling of it. If leather is regularly cleaned and maintained and not excessively overused and if the basic rules in dealing with leather are respected, you will prolong the pleasure of this durable and robust material.

    Broken leather with bad flexibility   Bad quality leather belt   Bad quality leather

Testing Leather

There are many different methods for testing and evaluating leather. Here’s what to look for and don’t be afraid to ask the vendor if you’re not sure.

Look of the leather: A beautiful leather looks very natural and has a defect-free surface.

Leather grain texture: The grain texture should be good-looking and as natural as possible. An embossed grain pattern is very uniform, which does not correspond to the natural grain of a skin. Also embossed leather often feels less natural.

Softness of the leather: Generally, leather should be pleasantly soft and have a natural feel. But leather shoes or leather belts need to be more robust.

Haptic evaluation of leather surfaces: Leather should feel good, whether it’s soft, blunt or smooth. The more luxurious leather feels, the better the quality. 

The leather finish: To protect the leather, it is often useful to apply a binder based finish on the surface. The more layers of leather paint that are applied to the surface, the more unnatural it feels. If the grain texture is sanded before the finish, the leather feels even more unnatural. So too does film coated leather, usually considered inferior to natural leather and therefore relatively inexpensive. On the other hand, the effect is an accepted feature of patent leather.

Breathability of leather: While breathability gives leather the edge over alternative materials, this property is reduced the more it is coated with colour or film.

Tear strength and stability of the leather: Good leather is stable and resistant to tearing, whereas suede, nubuck or extremely soft lambskin will not have the same stability as, for example, belt leather. But within the types of leather very different qualities exist. So, a leather of inferior quality within the same type of leather will always tear more easily than that of a higher quality. Also sanded leather is usually less stable than full-grain leather.

We regularly deal with varying types of leather and a wide range of qualities. Whilst we are not regulated or offer a very extensive test report, we can test your leather to establish the quality and give you our honest feedback. We do this for free and purely because we love working with this wonderful, natural product!