So, a little bit of information for those that are looking for it.
There are a few definitions below but hopefully they go some way to explaining the quality of the materials we use and why we use them.
So, let's start with LEATHER QUALITY:
Full Grain Leather = This is the good stuff - what we use!
Leather taken from the top layer of the hide that includes all its natural grain. It is the real deal. Full grain refers to the full, unadulterated hide in its natural form.
Other terms you may see on producte descriptions are Top Grain and Genuine Leather. Below we have tried to simply explain why they are inferior products to what we use.
Top Grain – Grain leather from which the hair and natural grain have been sanded away a little, to hide imperfections, which also makes the hide weaker. The leather is then chrome tanned + stamped/embossed with an imitation grain for a consistent finish. Top grain leather is NOT the same as full grain leather.
Genuine Leather = Genuine leather is the catchall term for anything that is technically leather. Unfortunately, most consumers still believe genuine leather is the “best” or at least a premium product that warrants a higher price. The opposite is often the case. By definition, full grain leather is genuine leather HOWEVER anyone selling a product which is 'Full Grain Leather' won’t label it as 'Genuine Leather' because there is a huge difference in quality.
To add to this, Bridle Leather = The BEST stuff.
Bridle Leather is only made from the highest quality hides + materials. The bridle leather we use is vegetable tanned. Bridle leather has both the flesh and grain side of the leather finished with wax, making it weather resistant. This is generally a labour intensive process, thus expensive!
Once the dying process is complete, the leather will be stiff however with care and after some use, it will become soft and supple with a lot of strength.
Next well give you a quick walk through the TANNING PROCESS:
An untreated hide will harden if it remains untreated, as it is an organic material. So, the aim of the tanning process is to prevent this from happening – to turn the hide into leather.
Some evidence suggests that leather tanning was performed as far back as approximately 6,000 BC in the Indus Valley. The basic principle has been the same for all these millennia: To modify the protein called collagen, which the skin is made up of. You can actually get a sense of this protein with the naked eye. Collagen molecules like to first line up and then to twist together into “fiber bundles” that you can easily see if you look closely enough at good quality leather.
We'll keep this simple and give you the two main types of tanning processes used and referenced:
Vegetable Tanned = what we use in all of our collars/leads/harnesses/splitters.
The process of making leather by the use of natural tannins obtained from barks, woods or other parts of plants and trees, as distinguished from "mineral tannages." Also referred to as veg tanned leather, it is prized by leather artisans for its exceptional beauty and workability.
Vegetable tanned leather continues to be associated with tradition and craft. The time and skill involved in its production make it an expensive material. It is a thick and malleable leather making it ideal for sturdy goods, like dog accessories.
Chrome Tanned = Tanned with CHEMICALS. We do NOT use this for our collars, leads, splitters or harnesses.
Tannage of leather with soluble chromium salts, primarily chromium sulfate. Small amounts of another tanning agent may be added, but not in amounts sufficient to change the chrome tanned character of the leather.
The process is less natural than when using vegetable tannins. It involves first placing the hides in acidic salts to better make the chrome fit in between the collagen molecules. This requires the use of acids and other chemicals as well as the chromium sulphates themselves. If not properly managed, these will have a negative environmental impact, and the industry continues to be under pressure to “clean up” as more regulations are introduced. It produces a slush of chemicals and gases, including carcinogenic chromium (IV). This is so noxious that strict regulations governing it have forced the closure of tanneries in the US and Europe.
Vegetable tanned leathers are generally biodegradable, but the tanning process requires the use of more water and more tanning agents than when chrome tanning. Chrome tanned leathers, on the other hand, cannot be recycled as such. Today no less than about 90% of the world’s leathers are chrome tanned - pushed primarily by the lower price point.
We prefer to use Full Grain, Vegetable Tanned, chemical free, leather for our products due to the superior quality, environmental reasons and the natural tanning process used.
Before I finish, it is worth noting that PU Leather, or polyurethane leather, is an artificial leather made of thermoplastic polymer. 100% PU leather is completely artificial and is considered vegan, however this is not necessarily good for the planet or our pets. The raw materials of PU comes from fossil fuels, and producing PU is not yet entirely non-toxic. There are some types of PU leather called bicast leather that have actual leather but has a polyurethane coating on top.