Leather Basics

So, what, exactly, is leather?

At its most basic, leather is just treated animal skins.

Animal skin is treated in order to preserve it. Hides or skins, where its original fibrous structure is more or less intact, is tanned to be protected from rot.

Of course, it gets much more complicated than that. Types of leather, finishes, and tanning all play an important part in the definition of leather, and are explored in other leather educational resources you can find at TrafalgarStore.com.

Where does leather come from?

The vast majority of leather is a byproduct of the meat industry. Hides and skins that would otherwise be waste are transformed into beautiful products. There is a small percent of exotic leathers that are not byproducts of other industries.

98% of leather comes from 4 animal groups, all of which are by products of the meat industry. These hides come from Cattle, Sheep, Pigs, and Goats. There are many other sources of leather, but those are the main ones your will find.

Why does leather smell so great?

The smell of leather is a combination of the preserved hide and residuals of tannins used while making the hides into leather.

How long has leather been around?

The oldest known leather item known to exist dates back 5,500 years and is a shoe/moccasin. Nearly 5,000 years ago, a man was found preserved in ice wearing leather clothing.

While these are the first known examples of leather, there is evidence of stone tools used on leather dating back more than 1.6 million years ago. Because of this, leather is often referred to as man's first manufacturing process.

Recipes for Vegetable Tanning have been found that date back to 3,000 years ago in Babylon.

Early civilizations used smoke, salt, even animal brains to tan hides into leather.

Finding old leather items is very rare due to the fact that leather is biodegradable.

How can I tell if a leather is high quality?

Typically, the best leathers are clear, supple, and have "fat wrinkles" when pressed. It has a natural look and feel rather than stiff with a heavy coating.

What does the term Genuine Leather mean?

Genuine Leather covers a large amount of different leathers and varying qualities. Suede leather, no matter how nice, could be considered Genuine Leather.

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