When buying leather products, you want to make sure you know what you’re paying for. This often means wading through the marketing and learning some of the common terminology when it comes to different types of leather.
Cowhide is made of two main integrated layers – the corium and the grain. Collagen fibers in the corium are thinner and more flexible, and become tighter and thicker as they move up toward the grain, where the fibers are tightly packed and very sturdy.
The top part of the grain faces outward toward the hair, and can contain blemishes like insect bites, stretch marks, scars, and brands. This means that the very top part of the grain is often buffed off to make the leather look more uniform.
Starting at the top of the chain, we have full-grain leather. The term full-grain refers to leather that hasn’t been sanded or buffed out to remove marks or imperfections, so it includes the entire thickness of the skin. While sanding these out may make the leather more visually appealing to some, keeping the grain allows for additional material strength and durability. Only the highest quality furniture, luggage, and footwear often features full-grain leather, and it develops a beautiful patina over time.
Second on the list, and the second-highest quality, top-grain leather has the split layer with imperfections taken away, making it thinner and more workable for the manufacturer. This is the most common type of leather used in high-end products (think handbags), you’ve likely seen it everywhere. This leather has had its surface sanded and a finish applied, giving it a “smooth” feel. While this finish takes away most breathability, it prevents stains that would otherwise sink into full-grain leather.
The bottom part of the leather, the part that is split off from the grain at the grain/corium junction, goes by many different names, and it can get really, really confusing. Many people refer to this bottom layer of leather as “genuine leather”, however, the term isn’t used consistently and is also used to mean real leather as opposed to manmade faux leathers. More terms you may see: split leather, corrected leather, embossed leather, coated leather, Suede, Napa leather (again, not a consistently used term), painted leather, and more. For our purposes, we’re going to refer to it as split leather.
Split leather can then be sliced down even thinner and used for other purposes. Often a polymer coating is applied and embossed to mimic a grain leather; however these leathers are not nearly as strong or durable. This is sometimes referred to as a finished split.
Another use for split leather is suede, which has been textured to have a napped finish. Suede is often confused with nubuck, which is a grain leather that is textured to have a similar nap finish. The difference is that nubuck is much stronger and more durable than suede, though suede’s softness and pliability make it useful for certain applications.
Bonded leather is the lowest grade of leather, because it is not really leather – just shredded leather scraps and bits reconstituted with a filler and backed with an embossed polyurethane coating. It’s very cheap, but falls apart quickly. Bonded leather is found in low-end furniture and accessories, and sometimes book binding. You may also see this referred to as reconstituted or blended leather.
Bellorita Handbags are proud that all bags are made of Full-Grain leather, and it will give you a feel of patina over time. Shop Bellorita Handbags with code Bellorita20 to enjoy $20 off.