- Anna Kruze
Grades of Leather
Full-grain leather is made from the outer layer of the hide containing densely packed fibers for a finer grain. Usually, only the hair on the hide has been removed leaving genuine imperfections in the material. Full-grain leather without imperfections is known to be rare and therefore highly prized in the leather goods world. This piece of leather is praised for its high durability. Because of its natural production process, this leather will also slightly change colors with continued use. Full-grain leather is most often found in saddlery, footwear, and upholstery. Multiple high-end leather producers use full-grain in their creations.
A cut of top-grain leather is almost identical to full-grain leather. A top-grain leather cut is also taken from the top layer of the hide. The major contrast is that the top-grain leather has been sanded or buffed to remove any imperfections. The sanding process results in leather that can easily be dyed or shaped. Top-grain leather is still considered a high-end leather. It is used in many client products including wristwatches, bags, wallets, bookcases, and shoes.
Genuine leather material is crafted from any layer of the hide—there’s no specification for this one. The leather goes through a sanding or buffing process to remove any imperfections in the hide. Genuine leather is generally used for belts, apparel, footwear, and different fashion accessories.
Split-grain Leather (Suede)
Split-grain leather is cut from the lower levels of the hide. It’s called split-grain because you use the base material after splitting the pelt. Although it’s not as strong as top or full-grain, split-grain leather can still serve a useful purpose in leather goods. The flexibility of this fabric allows for more coloring and embossing options. Shoes, handbags, and couches are typical products that contain split-grain leather. This type of leather is also used to create suede— a widely used material in shoe manufacturing.
Bonded leather is a term used to define a fabric that consists of anywhere from 10% - 90% of leather manufactured from different leather scraps. It’s commonly used as a filler. The scraps are bonded together with polyurethane or latex. Since the amount of leather varies greatly with each bonded leather material, you don't have an insured grade with other grades of leather. Factories typically use bonded leather for sofas and other furnishings.