What is the difference between top grain and full grain leather?
Information on the “grains” and “types” of leather can assist you in making an informed choice when selecting your next leather piece. Much of the quality of genuine leather depends on the type and grain of the leather wear you choose.
Types of Leather Grains
The distinction between the categories of a Top Grain leather and Full Grain leather are important. Top Grain leather refers to the process of sanding away the natural grain from the top surface of the leather. Imitation grain gets stamped into the leather to give a more uniform look, but no genuine grain remains. The word “top” often confuses seekers of the finest leather because it infers that it is “the tops” in quality.
Full Grain Leather
The real “tops” in quality is Full Grain leather. The best upholstery Full Grain leathers should display the natural markings and grain characteristics from the animal of which it was taken. Full Grain leathers generally come from a better quality hide or skin and no sanding processes are applied to its surface. Full Grain leathers offer a natural look and feel and are treated by transparent aniline dyes.
Pure Aniline Leather
Pure Aniline leathers fall into the elite 5% of Full Grain leather available. These grains are also sometimes referred to as Aniline Full Grain, True Aniline and Naked Aniline , or Natural grains. People who love the natural characteristics and markings of the very purest quality hides and are searching for the softest leather generally seek out Pure Aniline Grains.
Semi-Aniline grain leathers are processed a little more than Pure Aniline leathers. They receive a nominal level of manufactured coatings that conceal minor surface defects but do not cover the natural characteristics of the hide. Semi-Aniline grains fall into the top 10-15% of the Full Grain leathers.
Nubuck is a type of aniline leather that has a velvet like texture and extremely lush appearance. The grain has not been processed, but it is brushed and polished. The surface of Nubuck will change shade when you run your hand across it. The grain of Nubuck has a velvety look and feel and is of a slightly higher quality than suede, which is actually the inner side of the skin that gets buffed into a soft nap.
Aniline leathers can be identified by lightly scratching the surface of the leather. If the leather scratches to a lighter color, it may be an Aniline grain. You may also test the surface by lightly rubbing a wetted finger or a protection cream into a hidden area of the leather. If it darkens slightly then dries invisibly, it is Aniline grain leather.
Corrected Leather grains
Corrected Leather grains fall into the Top Grain Leather category. These leathers go through considerable processing of sanding, buffing, stamping and then dyeing. The purpose of this processing is to create a uniform look that removes insect bites, barbed-wire scratches and other environmental markings that might appear on the hide. Corrected Leather grains fall into the next 18% of leathers.
Grains of leather that fall below the 18% mark should be avoided for your next leather wear purchase. The tissue structure of materials in split-grains, patent leather and bonded leather do not measure up to the durability and quality of Full Grain and Top Grain leathers.