This glossary provides many of the terms
encountered in the leather industry. We
have highlighted some of the more important
terms for the leather furniture customer.
A typical whole hide. As
can be seen, the
shape of the hide
restricts the shapes of
leather pieces that can
be cut out of it. A side
is created by dividing
the whole hide
vertically down the
Aniline: Leather that is colored all the way through with a transparent dye. The
effect is applied by immersing the leather in a dye bath. Because the finish is
transparent and shows the natural markings of the leather, only the best quality
hides can be used.
Antiqued: Leather that is dyed with one color over another (usually darker over
lighter) so as to create rich highlights and an artificial aged appearance. Also
called distressed leather.
Buffed Leather: Leather from which the top surface has been removed by
abrasion. Often known as suede or nubuc.
Corrected Grain: Leather that has been buffed to remove blemishes, then
covered with a new, artificial grain created using pigments and other finishes.
Crocking: Removing the crock, or excess coloring, that rubs off of a newly-dyed
Crust: Leather which has been tanned (treated to become nonperishable) but not
colored or otherwise finished.
Distressed: Another term for antiqued leather.
Drum Dying: The process of coloring leather by tumbling it in a rotating drum
immersed in dye. A very effective method allowing maximum dye penetration.
Embossed Leather: Leather that has been "stamped" with a design or artificial
texture under very high pressure. Used, for example, to create imitation alligator
Finish: Any enhancing effect applied to leather after it has been tanned. Examples
are dyeing, embossing, buffing, antiquing, waxing, waterproofing, and so on.
Full Grain Leather: Leather which has not been altered beyond hair removal. Full
grain leather is the most genuine type of leather, as it retains all of the original
texture and markings of the original hide.
Glazed Leather: Aniline-dyed leather which has been polished to a high luster by
passing through glass or steel rollers under great pressure.
Glove Leather: Lambskin or other very soft leather typically used for gloves.
Grain: A word used to describe the natural characteristics of an unprocessed
hide, such as its pores, wrinkles, markings, and texture.
Hand: A word used to describe the feel (i.e. softness or fullness) of leather,
typically upholstery leather.
Nap: Describes the soft, "fuzzy" effect achieved in leather by buffing or brushing.
Natural Grain: A leather that displays its original grain.
Nubuck: A leather whose surface has been buffed and brushed to create a soft,
velvety effect. Differs from suede in that while suede is created from the flesh
(inner) side of a hide, nubuc is created using the grain (outer) side, giving it added
strength and durability.
Oil Tanned: Leather that is tanned using oils to create a very soft, pliable finish.
Patina: The aura or luster that develops in a quality piece of leather with age.
Perforated: Leather in which a pattern of small holes is stamped using a die.
Pigmented Leather: Leather that has been coated with a flat surface color on top
of or instead of the usual dye finish. Leather is usually pigmented to add durability
and hide natural blemishes.
Plating: The process of pressing leather under a heated plate. Often used in
upholstery leather to mask imperfections.
Pull-up: Describes the behavior of leather that has been treated with oils, waxes,
and dyes in such a way that when the leather is pulled or stretched (i.e. on
upholstery), the finish becomes lighter in the stretched areas. Considered a mark
of high quality.
Retan: A second finish added over an underlying tannage.
Sauvage: A coloring effect created by blending two similar dyes to create a mottled
or marbled appearance.
Semi-Aniline: Aniline leather to which a matching pigment layer is added to even
out the color and add protection.
Side Leather: Leather made from one half, or "side", of a full hide. Typically refers
to leather whose top grain (outermost layer) has been left intact.
Split Leather: Leather made from the lower (inner or flesh side) layers of a hide
that have been split away from the upper, or grain, layers. Split leather is more
fragile than side leather or full-grain leather, and is typically used in the form of
Suede: Split leather that has been buffed and brushed to create a fuzzy surface
Top Grain: Leather whose top (outermost) layers have been left intact, in contrast
to split leather.
Two-tone: An effect created by applying layers of similar or contrasting dyes to a
piece of leather in order to create a mottled or aged appearance. Antiqued and
Sauvaged leathers are examples of two-tone leathers.
Upholstery Leather: Leather created from a whole hide and intended for use in
furniture, automobiles, airplanes, and other upholstery applications.
Vegetable Tanning: A method of hide tanning which utilizes materials from
organic materials such as bark instead of the traditional chemicals. Vegetable
tanned leather has greater body and firmness than traditionally-tanned leather.
Weight: A term which describes the heaviness or thickness of leather. Typically
given in ounces per square foot or millimeters (thickness).
Whole Hide: Refers to leather created using a full hide, as opposed to a side, and
typically intended for use as upholstery leather.
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