With so many leather options available when shopping for furniture, knowing some key terms before heading out to the furniture store will help you become more educated and make informed buying decisions. Try to familiarize yourself with the following terms:
ANALINE DYED LEATHER - Lovers of truly natural products are particularly fond of these leathers: their unequaled, glove-soft texture adds an extra dimension of comfort to your sofa or chair. To create this luxurious softness and the rich gem-like color, aniline dyed leathers are tumbled for up to 12 hours in drums containing clear, transparent dyes. These dyes enhance the subtle variations of each hide. All leathers get better over time, but aniline dyed leathers develop a truly beautiful, distinctive patina which adds to its value as a focal point in your home. Only premium hides with the most pleasing color and texture are selected for this category, less than 5% of all upholstery hides in the world. Many grades of leather, from all tanneries, are aniline dyed and natural.
SEMI-ANILINE LEATHER - Also referred to as "Aniline Plus," these leathers are first dyed in the penetrating aniline dyes. Then a topcoat is applied to even out the color of the hide surface. The topcoat also serves to create fading, and soil resistant pieces. Semi-aniline leathers are available in hundreds of colors. They retain a great amount of the softness of aniline dyed hides because the natural top grain is left intact.. A much larger proportion of the worldwide hide supply is suitable for this class of leather and as a result they are more moderately priced than pure aniline dyed hides.
CORRECTED GRAIN LEATHER - Many hides are very marred by naturally occurring imperfections or "'thumbprints" such as insect bites, barbed wire scars, scrapes and other defects. To remove these imperfections, corrected Grain leathers are first sanded or buffed then usually embossed to restore a natural looking grain pattern. Finally, additional color and a protective coating is applied. Some natural softness is sacrificed in the process, but the great number of hides that fit this category make this the most economical grade of top grain leather furniture and extremely resistant to stains and fading.
FULL GRAIN LEATHER - Top-grain leather in its natural state (not corrected or buffed), including the "beauty marks" or "thumbprints of nature” which make each hide unique.
TOP GRAIN LEATHER - The top, outermost, strongest, most durable part of the hide. Very durable because there are no consistent fiber patterns along which the hide can tear. The natural fibers run in all directions. a property of very strong materials. Full grain leather is always top grain.
SPLIT GRAIN LEATHER - The lower layer of the hide, cut away when getting to the top-grain. less strength and overall durability because the fibers in split-grain leather run in one direction allowing a crack or tear to possibly form. The placement and usage of "splits" is important for the durability and quality of the product.
TANNING - The process used to preserve hides. These are pigmented with chromium salts, which change the hide's chemical structure, preserving it for a lifetime.
EMBOSSED - To form a natural-looking leather pattern by using a pressure plate. Most very protected leathers are corrected grain leathers: they are sanded and/or buffed. Then may be embossed to replace the lost pattern seen in natural leather.
SAUVAGE - A process creating a beautiful, marbled appearance to the leather.
PULL UP - leather that has been injected with oils and/or coated in waxes. Initial scratches will disappear over time as the oils and wax return to the surface.
DISTRESSED, AGED, ANTIQUED - The “bomber jacket" or aged look is achieved by applying a wax to the surface of the leather and then tumbling the hides. The tumbling causes the wax to -break" at the creases, resulting in the worn and wrinkled look.
BI-CAST - Produced by bonding a split grain leather to a urethane or vinyl film. The vinyl film gives a high sheen appearance, similar to a patent leather. Bi-cast lacks some of the benefits of all leather products, such as breathability and suppleness but it provides a unique look, and high perceived value with lower costs.
BONDED LEATHER - The bonded leather used in upholstered furniture is a polyurethane fabric that is then backed with a layer of latex or vinyl and mixed with leather fibers. The leather fibers are in the range of 15% to 20% of the total content. The leather is on the outside backing only. Therefore, a great way to explain these materials in this product is that bonded leather is a fabric (vinyl) that has the look and feel of leather but at fraction of the cost. Bonded Leather contains polyurethane therefore it will not breathe as well as leather. Bonded leathers are not new as they have been used in the bindings of books, belts and handbags and is a very durable product.
MICROCAST - Similar to Bonded except it has a fabric woven backing and is not leather. It is made of vinyl or polyurethane and is a super strong fabric that can be made to look like leather. It is used in many cases on Motion Upholstery on the backs and side.
LEATHER MATCH/ALL-LEATHER SEATING - is an economic alternative to full leather. It combines top-grain leather seats with skillfully matched vinyl on the sides and back of furniture. The vinyl is dyed to match the leather. Leather is reserved for the cushions or all places that come in contact with your body. Leather match or all leather seating sofas are much more economical than top-grain leather sofas.