Leather has been around for a very long time, about 5,000 years. It is resilient, versatile and if cared for property can last for a lifetime. If you are looking for a particular feel or appearance, the type you choose will be very important.
Leather is an agricultural bi-product of the food industry. Leather quality can be pre-determined by genetics and by the food supply. The wonderful thing about leather is that each piece is unique, no two pieces are identical (because it is a natural product) and, of course, it can not be duplicated.
Leather can usually fall into one of three categories:
1. Aniline – (Also called Natural, Pure, Naked or Unprotected) these leathers are colored with transparent dye stuff, enabling you to see the actual surface grain and markings. This category of leather has little or no protective treatments applied to them. Commonly a spray with a wax finish is sprayed on giving them a short term water repellance. For care and maintenance purposes you need to know if the surface has been brushed (feels like velvet) or not. This is where it become difficult to distinguish between Nubuck and Aniline leather.
Some ways that you can identify Aniline are:
a. Lightly scratch the surface to see if it leaves a lighter color scratch mark. If it scratches to a lighter color, it is Aniline. Nubuck will also do the same.
b. Wet your finger and lightly rub it into the leather to see if it darkens. With Aniline it should darken lightly but dry invisibly.
2. Semi-Aniline – (Also called Finished, Semi-Aniline, Everyday, Pigmented or Painted) these leathers have combined the best aspects of a natural product and have utilized tannery technology to create a product more uniform in appearance and color. Protected leathers are the most common leathers and purchased by consumers more than the other categories, because of their resilience. With this category of leather a finish is applied to the surface that makes the leather more resilient to the rigors of heavy use, although the pigments and finish that is applied to protect the leather also will affect the softness. The more that is needed to be applied the less soft the leather will be. Some ways that you can identify Semi-Aniline leather are:
a. Lightly scratch the surface to see if it leaves a lighter color scratch mark. If it does not leave a lighter scratch mark (the color remains the same) then this has a protective finish on the leather.
b. Use soft cleaner and clean the leather. The cleaner should stay on top of the finish and should not darken the leather.
c. With protected leather the surface should have some sort of sheen to it.
3. Nubuck – (Also called Distressed, Bomber or Suede) these leathers are actually Aniline leathers. The surface on this type of leather has been brushed leaving the texture similar to a velvet on leather. This type of leather is often confused with Suede. Suede is the flesh side of a piece of leather and Nubuck is derived from an effect that is done to the grain side, which makes this leather incredibly soft. The brushing also makes the leather even more absorbent than the Aniline leathers. Nubuck and Aniline are very difficult to distinguish from each other. The most difficult to identify are the ones which are in the distressed leathers category or the leathers that have a waxed finish applied. Nubuck leathers can have an endless variety of embossed patterns and color applied to them and can also reflect the natural leather grain, thus making Nubuck very popular in the fashion world. Some ways that you can identify Nubuck are:
a. The surface texture should feel very similar to velvet. When you run your hand across the surface it should leave shading traces just like when a carpet is vacuumed in one direction and then in another. If the leather surface leaves this shading it is Nubuck. Ashley Clarke