Say you’re browsing to buy a leather bag or wallet. Naturally, you’d want a high-quality product, but the world of leather is complex. How can you tell the leather is truly worth your hard-earned money?
To help you make better purchasing decisions, us leather-loving folks at Gnome & Bow have put together an informational guide for you. Read on to learn about the three most important things to consider when buying leather products in Singapore!
1. What is the Grade of Leather Used?
It all begins with the cowhide, which consists of multiple distinct layers. Leather grades depend on the layers used, which greatly influences the final product’s quality and longevity. Let’s take a closer look at the five grades of leather, ranked in order from most to least pure.
This is the real deal, the crème de la crème. It’s the outermost layer of the cowhide that has a fine, fully-intact grain with densely packed fibres. Since it undergoes minimal processing and no sanding or buffing, full-grain leather retains its natural imperfections. It also absorbs moisture and oil to develop a natural patina over time, leading to incredible longevity.
Here at Gnome & Bow, we only use full-grain leather in our products as we firmly believe in buying less and buying better. With proper care, these leathers will age beautifully over time and last a lifetime.
Contrary to its name, top-grain leather isn’t the best leather — that honour goes to full-grain. While top-grain leather is also taken from the topmost layers of hide, it is sanded, buffed, and pigmented to eliminate blemishes for a smooth, uniform surface. This processing closes the hide’s natural pores, preventing moisture from being absorbed. This offers better water resistance, but the leather will not develop a patina and is generally more prone to scratches.
Split leather is formed using the lower levels of hide, which means it does not have any grain. It is most commonly used to produce suede, and its softness and flexibility make it a popular material for leather shoes and handbags.
It has “genuine” in its name so it should be good, right? Well, not quite. Genuine leather is one of the most common leather types you’d find, but it has since evolved into a vague blanket term used to refer to anything that is technically leather.
To hardcore leather experts and more discerning customers, genuine leather commonly refers to the very bottom layer of hide, which drastically pales in quality compared to full or top-grain leather. For the general layman or fashion lovers, it commonly refers to any layer. As long as the material “contains” leather, it can be considered genuine, real, or authentic leather. Now you can ask the right questions and make an informed decision when you see the words “genuine leather” on a product.
Right at the bottom of the quality scale is bonded leather, which isn’t technically leather. Rather, it is made from the discarded leather scraps that are mixed and bonded together chemically.
2. How was the Leather Tanned?
Leather tanning is the process of turning raw hide into leather by stabilising the proteins, or collagen, of the skin to prevent putrefaction. There are two frequently used tanning methods, each with its advantages, so we recommend that you choose the one that best suits your preferences.
This method tans the leather by soaking it in vegetable tannins derived from natural sources such as tree bark. It results in thicker leather that retains its shape and is highly durable for rugged or daily use. It also ages beautifully and develops a natural patina over time.
Its name comes from the chromium mineral used in the process. This is the most widely used tanning method, as it is considerably faster and more cost-effective than vegetable tanning. The resulting leather is thinner, softer, more flexible, and more water and scratch resistant than vegetable-tanned leather. These qualities make it ideal for hot or humid climates like Singapore!
Gnome & Bow uses both types of tanned leathers, harnessing the best of both worlds. Our leather braided bracelets use Italian vegetable-tanned leathers for their natural beauty and rich colours. Meanwhile, our bags and wallets are crafted with chrome-tanned leathers from the USA for maximum durability and ease of maintenance.
3. How was the Leather Finished & Dyed?
Lastly, we consider the finishing and dyeing process of the leather, with two main types in question — Aniline and Semi-Aniline.
Aniline leather is dyed using soluble dyes so that the colour is fully saturated, giving the leather a vibrant appearance. No pigmentation or topcoat paint is used to retain the leather’s natural markings and texture. Gnome & Bow treats its signature USA full-grain waxed leathers with oils to create a unique pull-up effect, resulting in a rich gradient and exceptional sheen. Moreover, our full-grain Nappa leathers from the U.S. boasts robust colours and authentic grains while maintaining a soft and supple touch.
Semi-aniline is similar to aniline leather but with additional treatment. After dyeing, it is coated with a protective layer to give it consistent colour, uniform surface texture and protection from wear and staining.
Discover Premium Leather Goods at Gnome & Bow
Now that you’re armed with knowledge on leather, you are well-equipped with a more discerning eye for leather products. Gnome & Bow is where you’ll find premium full-grain, leather products that pair exceptional quality with a touch of storybook whimsy. Each product is hand-crafted to last and age beautifully with time. Explore our collection of leather bags, wallets, card holders, and more for men and women
in Singapore today!