What is Full Grain Leather?
by Albert Varkki updated 01-05-2023
Leather is just one name, but it stands for many, many different types of product and a wide range of quality levels. Overall quality is affected by the quality of the hide, the type of production methods used, the skill and craftsmanship employed, and more. Full grain leather from the uppermost layer of the animal hide is the best source, and when coupled with the high levels of quality manufacture and craftsmanship put into Von Baer's luxury bags, accessories and luggage, the final result is something really worth being proud of.
Let’s go through some detail on what full grain leather is, and what it means to have a product made from this fine material.
What is full grain leather?
Full grain leather is the finest form of leather. It is taken from the top of the hide which, since it is the part exposed to the outside world, is the toughest part. On the animal, it must withstand the weather, attacks from other animals, and brushes with tree branches and other hazards. This leather therefore keeps its grain and fibers. It takes a skilled hand to craft it well, and the final product retains unique characteristics and imperfections – which is part of its appeal. It is not sanded or buffed or snuffed, nor does it undergo any other process to take away these unique features and marks. The result is a very strong, all-natural material that creates one-of-a-kind pieces.
In addition to its beauty, full-grain leather is more breathable and retains less moisture during prolonged contact. It also develops its own patina, over time, resulting in a glossy sheen and darkening of the material that has not yet been successfully achieved in any other way. It takes the right material, a high level of quality, exposure to the sun – and time.
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Which part of the hide does full grain come from?
The uppermost layer of the hide is the part that is full grain. The hide is its toughest there, due to the higher degree of fiber tightness. Yes, it makes this leather very difficult to craft and work with, but the final result is way more durable than leather from other sources, so high-end artisans tend to prefer it to easier, but less durable alternatives.
The word ‘grain’ is used in a similar way as it is used in reference to wood. For hides, this is caused by the tight skin undulation of the hide, which is densest near the surface of the hide and get less so the deeper in you go. Suede, by comparison, is taken from the layers closest to the flesh, which results in a very soft and pliable – but delicate – end result.
It is the presence of the animal’s markings and the natural folds of the undulation that creates the characterful nature of full-grain leather. Some of these hides undergo a brushing process to remove most of these markings (this is then said to be “corrected” leather), and then the grain is artificially stamped in again during production. This uppermost layer is repellent to water, so no additional chemical treatment is necessary during production. In addition to saving a step in the manufacturing process, this also means that the skin remains more breathable and is able to develop the patina that is so desirable in high-quality pieces.
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Benefits of Full Grain Leather
Full grain leather has several advantages over the alternatives. Here are a few to consider:
- It is incredibly strong and durable, because it comes from the uppermost layer of the animal hide.
- It is more breathable than “top grain,” “split grain,” or “corrected” leather types.
- Each item is unique, because each skin’s grain, flaws, and patina are unique.
- No other leather type gains a patina.
- It is difficult to work with, so only the most skilled of artisans tend to use it, ensuring you that an expert created on your item.
Leather products are of two types:
- those that last just a little while until they wear out and look terrible – but they are cheaper
- those that last a lifetime (or more) and look even better as they age – but they cost more
Investing in a full grain leather product gives you better value.
- You get a nicer item in the first place.
- Your item looks better and better as it ages.
- It is unique to you.
- It is extremely durable.
- It will last many times longer than cheaper items, which you would have to replace again and again.
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