Purchasing leather goods can be somewhat confusing, or even misleading when you don’t know what you’re looking for. Knowing the proper terms can help you separate the good stuff from the junk and save you a bundle in the long run. Let’s take a look at some of the most common terms for leather goods on the market today.
Full Grain Leather
Full grain leather is the highest grade you can find when shopping for leather goods. Unlike corrected or top grain leather, full grain leather leaves the hide intact. It does not remove natural marks or imperfections via sanding, buffing, or snuffing. The surface of the hide is tanned but left completely natural.
Top Grain Leather
Top grain is second-best when compared to full grain leather. Only the outermost layer of the hide is sanded to remove imperfections and blemishes. The sanding process thins the leather allowing it to be more workable. Top grain leather is imprinted with an imitation grain to give it a more uniform look. Top grain leather is less expensive and offers better stain resistance than full grain leather.
Genuine leather is the lowest quality leather available. Manufacturers use the term as a marketing ploy to upsell cheaper leather goods. Genuine leather doesn’t look as good as full or top grain leather especially after a decent amount of wear and tear.
Burnishing is a technical term for polishing the rough outer edges of leather to make them smooth. The process can be quite time consuming and technical but well worth the effort when crafting high-end leather goods. Burnished leather provides the perfect finishing touche and makes any leather project look amazing.
Finished leather is a generic term for any hide or leather good that has undergone the coloring, waterproofing, and/or wax dressing process. How leather is finished determines the outer appearance of the final surface properties of the leather.
All leather must be tanned to preserve the hide. Properly tanned leather can take up to two months and is a rigorous process that takes a good deal of time and effort. Tanning can involve thinning the leather, making it more pliable, and coloring the leather. The two most common tanning methods are chrome (most mass produced leather) and vegetable tanned leather (traditional/artisan leather goods).
Leather can be waxed for both aesthetic reasons and functional purposes. The waxing process helps leather goods repel moisture and protects the leather. Waxed leather can be beneficial for items exposed to poor weather conditions. Leather goods will not become water saturated thanks to the improved moisture-resistance of waxing.
Leather Goods Explained
Now that you know the most commonly used leather goods terms, you’re able to make an informed decision about your purchases. If you’re looking for high-end leather goods, you’ll want to seek out items that are made with full grain leather or top grain leather. Additionally, items that have been burnished or waxed can keep your leather looking good for the long haul.