The mystique of Leather can easily become a concern for the unwary shopper, with much variety in finishes and costs, it’s difficult to know one end of a hide from the other.
Here we give an accurate description of each leather type along with relevant information on life and wear characteristics.
The Physical Merits of Leather
Below are lists of physical properties which make leather both unique and valuable:
- High Tensile Strength.
- Resistance to tear, this is due to the three dimensional fiber weave.
- High resistance to flexural fatigue.
- High resistance to puncture.
- Low bulk density. Because of its fibrous nature the bulk density of leather is low without impairing its other qualities.
- Good heat insulation. As its low bulk density indicates there is a considerable amount of air in the interstices between the fibers of leather. The air clings to the fiber surfaces, being static; the air is a poor conductor of heat, an important factor in bodily comfort.
- Permeability to water vapor. At relative humidity leather fibers will hold more water vapor than any other fiber. This property enables leather to absorb perspiration which is later dissipated.
- Thermostatic properties. Leather is warm in winter and cool in summer. (can vary between different types of leather)
- Mold ability. Leather can be molded and will retain its shape.
- Anti-Fungal properties. Leather is treated for resistance to mildew and rot.
- Resistance to fire. Leather resists heat and flame, making it a safety conscious option in the modern abode, for this reason leather is also used in protective clothing.
Types of Leather
Full grain leather is mostly natural with hardly any human interference in it. It is usually the most expensive leather, because it is rarer to obtain a full leather hide, without natural imperfections and scarring. It is the strongest most durable leather, but it is also the least resistant to spills and stains.
Top grain leather is leather comes from the uppermost layer of a hide. It is the highest quality part of the hide after Full Grain.
It is created by buffing and polishing any imperfections and coating with a highly durable colour followed by a protective sealer.
Split Leather is the layer removed from the bottom of the hide. It is typically quite fragile. It is the cheapest leather
Bonded leather is not leather at all. Bonded leather is a material made using varying degrees of genuine leather waste combined with other substances to give the appearance of leather, but at reduced cost compared to natural leather.
Leatherette is just another name for vinyl, the term originates from the early days when vinyl was first being developed by chemical companies like DuPont, at that time they used a calico type base cloth covered in plastic. Modern vinyl is available in an endless range of surface finishes and can outlast most Leathers depending on the application and the quality of the product being used.