Owing to their durability and comfort, our leather jackets, footwear, belts, and bags are very dear to us. But even if you own several goods made of leather, you probably don’t have much idea about the different grades of leather that assess the leather’s quality. The terms leather crafters and off the rack leather product manufacturers use can be ambiguous, leaving a lot of room to wonder what type of leather should we opt for.
Caring about the quality of the leather good is vital, for which you need to know what grade of leather is used to make it. Primarily five types of leather grades are used for a wide range of products, which you can understand by reading the article till the end.
Full Grain Leather
The most popular, and the most premium of all is the full grain leather, which has all the layers of the hide intact. After shaving the hair from the skin, the grain is not altered anymore, leaving the natural marks and imperfections visible. This gives full grain leather its sought after character and richness. Moreover, not sanding and buffing makes full grain leather a lot more durable than other grades of leather, as it has significant resistance against moisture exposure.
Full grain leather is the least processed grade of leather. When the machinery to create corrected grain leather or split grain leather was yet to be invented, full grain leather was the only grade of leather used to create leather products. Industrialization paved way for machines and techniques that now give us split grain and other low quality leathers, such as the genuine leather.
Full grain leather is identified by its splendid smooth surface. It is exclusively treated with the aniline or semi aniline finish, which defines its natural look. Over time, full grain leather develops a patina, which beautifies it further. High-quality full grain leather is mostly used to make durable moto jackets, boots, sturdy bags, and furniture.
Top Grain Leather
Top grain leather, too, is the topmost layer of the animal’s hide. However, it is buffed to the extent that a uniform grain is created. While sanding the grain gives a stain resistant, refined surface to work upon, it reduces the durability of top grain leather. Also known as the corrected grain leather, it is a preferred grade used for making bags, jackets, and gloves with a smooth finish.
A variation of top grain leather is Nubuck, a refined grain leather with a velvety texture. Nubuck leather is buffed on the upper side. It is similar to suede in texture, which is a split grain leather variation.
Split Grain Leather
When the grain is separated from the hide to make full grain leather or corrected grain leather, it reveals the lower layer of corium, which is the last layer before the animal flesh. It is known as split grain leather or simply split leather. It has lesser durability and tightness as compared to full grain and top grain leather. Split grain leather is largely used to make embossed leather products.
A type of finished split leather is suede, which is created by buffing the underside of the skin. Suede is known for its distinctive fuzzy nap and softness and hence commonly used. It is porous and highly vulnerable to staining, so you need to keep up with the maintenance of a product that is made from suede. If you are looking for more durable suede, go for cowhide split grain leather. Finished split leather from sheepskin or goatskin is not as strong but definitely softer.
The tag 'genuine leather' is ambiguous for any customer who would think it is the real deal. Although undeniably made from real leather, genuine leather is not at par with the endurance of whole top grain leathers. Leftover scraps of leather are grinded into fine particles and then binded with an adhesive to make genuine leather. To imitate the look of real leather, genuine leather is stamped with a look alike pattern. As a result, we get a leather material that is considered genuine, but has none of the real leather qualities.
The last on the list of leather grades is bonded leather, made with only 20% natural leather. To make bonded leather, scraps of leather are ground and turned into leather dust, and later on a slurry. It is then spread onto a paper backing. Afterward, it is coated with polyurethane for a shiny finish or vinyl or embossed with patterns to look like real grain leathers.
You can identify bonded leather with its thinness, cold touch, and uniform texture, unlike real leather. It smells like chemicals. Bonded leather only lasts for a short time and starts cracking and peeling after two years. So you can choose bonded leather for products that you intend to use for a short time.
What are the different leather grades?
Different leather grades denote leather quality levels, with full grain leather being the highest grade. Full grain leather is followed by top grain, split grain, genuine leather and bonded leather grade.
Which grade of leather is considered the best?
Full grain leather, made from the strongest and most sturdy part of the animal skin, is the best choice of leather. Full grain leather gets even better as it ages and acquires a beautiful rich color and shine, known as a patina.
What is grade 1 leather?
The topmost layer of the animal hide, known as full grain, is considered grade 1 of leather. It is not sanded or buffed to bring uniformity to the texture, and shows the natural grain and scars present on the skin of the animal.
What is grade 2 leather?
Top grain leather, which is sanded down to create an even surface without any imperfections, is grade 2 of leather. It is also called corrected grain leather.
What is grade 3 leather?
Grade 3 of leather is the split leather, which is the part of the hide that remains after the top layers are separated from it.
What is grade 4 leather?
Genuine leather is considered grade 4 of leather. It is made from leather scraps that are leftover after making a quality leather product. Genuine leather products do not last long and start peeling quickly.
What is grade 5 leather?
The lowest grade of leather is known as bonded leather. The manufacturing of bonded leather uses 10-20% organic material in the form of leather scraps which are crushed into leather dust and spread over a paper base. Bonded leather products are not an appropriate option if you are looking for durability. Instead, you should opt for high quality leather, such as full grain or top grain leathers instead.
Being long lasting, comfortable, and stylish, leather is a sought-after choice of consumers for all kinds of products. We have compiled this guide to help you gain knowledge regarding the types of leather grades, which are full grain, top grain or corrected grain leather, split grain leathers, genuine leather, or bonded leather. You can check the quality of leather by assessing its grade so that the investment you make is worthwhile. The top grades of grain leather can last for decades, giving you a high number of uses.