4 Types of Leather and its Finishes

In the continuation to our previous discourse, we have responded to the maximum queries pertaining to the ethics of leather manufacture.

Let us now take a glance at different types of ethical leathers. As we know that leather is the by-product of the meat industry. It is, therefore, could be the corollary either of cow, buffalo, sheep or a Goat. These are the only classification of ethical leather besides which any form of leather coming through any other source or animal is clearly unethical.

Now let’s take a look at the various uses of ethical leather:

  • Cowhide – Upholstery and Bags
  • Buffalo hide – Saddlery, Harness, and Working Gloves etc.
  • Goat hide – Shoes
  • Sheep hide – Apparel

However, this is just the comprehensive allocation to the industry; exceptions can always be to this rule.

For an occurrence – Cow leather which is predominantly used to craft for upholstery, simultaneously if necessitate it can also be used to fabricate a heavy leather jacket. Or if the prerequisite of the design implore for small grain hide in a bag then, goat leather is used. I can go on with such examples forever.

The four components that play a vital role in processing the final piece of niche leather product are – Animal type, Tanning type, Thickness of the hide, Finish on the hide.

Tanning Type

Tanning agents are imperative with water and the inner characteristics of the leather. The level of water designates the texture of the leather such as hard, soft, supple, dry, etc.

 The primary types of tanning are:

Vegetable Tanning – This is a type of tanning which was introduced in early ages and being implemented ever since. The ingredients that are utilized to tan/ process the leather are all-natural and organic. Zero chemicals or non-toxic agents are used. This tanning process maneuver natural tennis which are available in liquid or powder form and are extracted from different part of plants including woods, barks, fruits, fruit pods and leaves.

Chrome Tanning – The word Chrome may sound frightening, especially after the movie ‘Erin Brocovich.’ But let’s not confuse Chrome with Chromium VI. Chrome is even in the water we drink, the water we swim in, whereas Chromium VI is toxic and deadly. Chrome (non-toxic) is another ingredient, which is used in the water to tan the leather. Along with Chromium, other tanning agents are fed to penetrate the inner layers of the hide deeply.

Wet White Tanning – Chrome tanned leathers generate the toxic Chromium VI if not tanned & inspected properly. Hence, they are produced with the combination of synthetic tannins, vegetable tannins, glutaraldehydes and minerals, such as aluminum and zirconium. The chromium-free leather can be produced with the same equipment that a chrome tannery uses.

Thickness of Hide

Every hide type has its constraints to its minimum and maximum thickness. Thus, the decision of the final leather determines the kind of the hide to be used.

  • Cow – is always a good choice for any final product which is to be above 1.1mm
  • Buff – is always a good choice with the final product above 0.9 mm but has a growth grain as compared to cow
  • Goat – thickness above 0.5 mm to max 0.9 mm
  • Lamb – thickness 0.5 mm to max 0.9 mm


Finishing on the hide can be observed as the ultimate emergence of the product. 

The following are the various kinds of finishes:-

  • Drum Dyed Finish
  • Aniline Finish
  • Semi-Aniline Finish
  • Nubuc Finish
  • Suede Finish
  • Oily Finish

Any tannery can make up to 500 variations from the above six via permutation and combinations.

Leather tanning & finishing is an evolving process which continues in its cycle and phases of advancement to make leather safe, environment-friendly and biodegradable.

Author: simranadmin

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