Leather is basically hides of larger animals or skins of smaller animals which has become durable. Variations of raw materials include skins of mammals, ox, cow, buffalo, goat, calf, sheep, pig and horse form the main raw material however kangaroo and camel may also be used. Reptiles like alligators, snakes and lizards as well as marine animals like seals, whales, sharks and bony fish are also used as well. The final smooth feel is derived after a series of steps to make it resistant to physical, biological and chemical factors. Leather is available in different varieties and requires a little in depth knowledge to differentiate.
Full grain is the original and unadulterated hide with the hair removed. If you closely observe you will be able to see the full grain of the animal. Shearing (often classified as fur) is sheep leather with its fur intact. Suede leather is the most popular name in the leather fashion. This is basically the flesh side of the leather that is buffed to produce a nap. Top grain is yet another confusing term and is usually used when the grain isn’t real. Generally, it is corrected or sanded away and an imitation grain is tamped on it. This is usually cheaper leather. Cordovan is prepared from that portion of the hide known as shell. It is produced with vegetable dyes and is a high quality piece. The embossed leather generally gives you an impression of another type of skin i. e. crocodile, alligator, ostrich, which is derived by using extreme pressure on the leather.
In Spilt leather, the hide is sliced into pieces to give uniform thickness and the flesh side (inside) is finished as a suede. The leather that is buffed on the grain (hair) side of the grain to produce a velvety fine nap is called Nubuck leather, where as leather with high gloss finish produced by oils, varnish and resin is called Patent.
Generally all online suppliers have the entire products displayed on their website. Each product is accompanied by detailed information especially on the designs and type of leather. But, If you plan to buy something offline, I would suggest you browse a few sites that offer information on the different varieties of leather, their designs and colors etc. The product photographs will place you visibly in a better position to differentiate when you are actually making the purchase.
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