Grades of Leather

Don’t be fooled. Just because a bag made from leather sounds real cool and the price is unbelievably cheap, don’t think you found a real deal. The bag may be constructed from reconstituted leather. The highest grade of leather is not cheap; however it lasts a lifetime and beyond.

Learn the grades of leather so when you shop for a leather product you know which leather grade you want and are prepared for the price tag that goes with it.

Knowing the grades of leather is an important part of ensuring you are satisfied with the item you purchase; each grade has specific characteristics; therefore we are providing the following information to help you become an educated shopper of leather products.

What are the different grades of leather?

Leather is made up of three grades: Full grain, top grain and split. Bonded is not a true leather grade because it is reconstituted. The following information provides more detail on each of the grades.

Full grain leather
Full grain leather is the highest grade and the highest quality. It is called full grain because it comes from the top layer of the hide which has ‘all’ of the grain or ‘full’ grain. It is the layer closest to the animal’s hair line. Full grain includes the ‘Top’ grain and the ‘Split’ grain layers of the leather. This grade of leather is not sanded, buffed or snuffed to remove natural marks (imperfections) on the surface of the hide. This grade of leather retains all of its authentic texture and markings of the original hide. This is the strongest grade of leather because the strongest fibers are in the ‘original grain’. This grade of leather develops luster, richness and depth of beauty as it ages (patina). It also has breath ability resulting in less moisture build-up from prolonged contact.

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Top grain leather
This is the second highest grade of leather. If the top surface of the hide (known as full grain and the original grain surface) has imperfections too great to be used as is, the original top surface (original grain) of the hide is altered. The imperfections may be shaved off to remove the damage or they may be sanded, buffed or snuffed and refinished. Since the original grain is altered, corrected or embossed, the grade of leather is known as ‘top grain’. This grade of leather is not as strong and durable as ‘full grain’ because the strongest fibers are found in the ‘original’ unaltered grain; however it is still a nice grade of leather. Likewise it does not age as nicely with use as ‘full grain’ does.

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Split leather
Split leather is the third highest grade of leather. It is known as split leather because it is split off from the surface layer (full grain and top grain). It has no natural animal scaring; therefore it is refinished to resemble a more natural higher grade. Split leather has a suede surface. Often an artificial polyurethane coating along with plating of artificial markings is applied making the surface smooth. Split leather is not as durable as full grain or top grain, will not last as long, and it not recommended for high stress products. This grade of leather is less expensive.

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Bonded leather
Bonded leather is not leather in its original form. It is reconstituted leather. The amount of actual leather included varies by manufacturer. Some bonded leather is made primarily from the collected waste products of the leather such as shavings. Other bonded leather may contain very little leather as is the case where a polyurethane or vinyl product is backed with fabric and then a layer of latex which is mixed with a very small amount of leather fibers. The polyurethane surface is stamped to give it a leather-like texture. Because this grade of leather has small amounts of leather in it and because the other ingredients used with the pieces (shavings) of leather are more plentiful, this grade of leather is least expensive.

As you can see, there is a great difference between the various grades of leather. As a consumer it is important that you know what grade of leather you want, be willing to pay the price, and then check the product labels to be sure you are getting the grade of leather you desire.

To make sure you can shop with confidence for the leather grade which interests you and not spend hours doing so, we have categorized various products by leather grade. We want you to know what leather grade you are getting when you select a specific item. We only feature ‘real, genuine’ leather products. No imitations!

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Where to shop for genuine leather products
Our site is dedicated to providing full grain, top grain and genuine leather products. We provide a good selection and always endeavor to find a good price for you. Check out what we have in our store.

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