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Fullgrain leather is not sanded, buffed, or snuffed to remove natural marks and imperfections on the surface of the hide. The grain remains which gives more strength and durability to the leather. It has breathability resulting in less moisture from prolonged contact. Rather than wearing out, it will develop a natural patina over time. It is commonly used for high quality leather furniture and footwear.
Topgrain leather is the outer surface layer with the inner layer separated away. It is thinner and more pliable than fullgrain leather. Its surface is sanded and finished which results in a colder, plastic feel with less breathability. It does not develop a natural patina like fullgrain leather. It has a greater resistance to stains as long as the finish remains unbroken. It is used to make high end leather products.
Split leather is leather created from the fibrous part of the hide after the topgrain is removed. The remaining drop split can be further split into a middle split and a flesh split. In thick hides, the middle split can further separated into layers until the thickness prevents further splitting. Split leather then has an artificial layer applied to the surface of the split and is embossed with a leather grain. Splits are also used to create suede.
Suede leather is made from the underside of the skin or splits. It has a napped finish that is fuzzy/shaggy. Suede is less durable than fullgrain and top grain because it does not have the tough outer layer. Its softness, thinness, and pliability make it suitable for clothing and delicate uses. Its textured nature makes it quickly absorb liquids.
These grades are general industry standards. Each tannery may use definitions that vary slightly from the industry standard.
Garment Leather: Beautiful leather is soft and supple and available in consistent colors with few marks or holes, roughly equivalent to Grade 1.
Glove Leather: Term covering two distinct classes:
Lining Leather: Any lightweight leather used for making linings which includes sheep, lamb, kid, goat, cattle, calf, kip and splits. More likely to have flaws:
- healed scratches and scars
- barbed wire marks
- stretch and vein marks, resulting from age and movement
- age wrinkles
- marks from branding, especially visible on South American hides
- insect bites