Leather Glossary: Know Your Leather TerminologyPurchasing leather furniture should be an interesting and enjoyable process. To ensure that our customers can make informed confident choices, we have created a glossary of leather terms to simplify your search.
Aniline Dying: The process of coloring leather using non-toxic aniline dyes. Aniline dye has no pigment, which allows for the natural signatures of leather to shine through.
Antiquing: A method of aging the appearance of a hide that is usually done by hand.
Bating: Process usually preformed at the same time as deliming, used to impart softness, stretch, and flexibility to the leather.
Breathability: How the leather adjusts to the temperature and wicks away moisture. A characteristic of full grain leather.
Buffing: The treatment of leather using sand paper to create appearances such as nubuck, or to eliminate unsightly imperfections and correct the grain. The effect is a more consistent, albeit synthetic, finish.
Chrome Tannage: A one bath tanning process using mostly chromium salts. It creates softer and more pliable leather with a higher thermal stability.
Combination Tannage: Leathers tanned with chrome and vegetable tanning agents, resulting in both softness and body in the hides.
Corrected Grain: When the surface of the hide is sanded or buffed to minimize flaws, then pigmented and embossed with a new grain.
Crocking: The result of poorly dyed leather, in which color begins to rub off of the furniture.
Distressed: Artificially created signs of "natural" aging.
Eight-Way Hand Tying: A labor-intensive type of furniture construction in which hardened steel coil springs are held in place by an intricate web of stake wires, helical springs and eight way hand ties which are secured to the wood frame. This construction is extremely popular because of its durability (fabric wears better on eight-way hand tying) and comfort.
Embossing: The process of minimizing defects in a hide and/or adding creative touches to the finished hide. The natural grain of the leather can be altered by etching, engraving, or electro-typed plates.
Enhanced Grain: The process of creating a uniform grain pattern by altering the natural texture of leather.
Finishing: The processes of treating a hide by adding multiple coats of dye that can enhance color, provide scratch protection, and resist staining. The extent of dying and the dye that is used affect the stiffness of the leather: aniline treatment results in soft, natural-looking leather.
Full Aniline: An aniline dyed and finished hide will have no color adjustment and all natural markings will be visible.
Full Top Grain: Premium leather that has been aniline-dyed but otherwise unaltered. The natural markings that remain provide the unique appeal of leather.
Grain: The natural or embossed pattern and texture of the surface of a hide.
Hand: A term used in the leather industry to describe the softness or fullness of upholstery leather.
Hand-Antiqued: The application by hand of a darker color over a lighter color in order to create a unique aged effect.
Leather Match: An alternative to 100% leather, leather match combines top-grain leather seating with skillfully matched vinyl on the sides and back of the furniture.
Machine-Antiqued: The application by machine of a darker color over a lighter color in order to create a dramatic and creative appeal.
Microfiber: A very popular leather alternative consisting of ultra-fine manufactured fibers that are easier to clean and maintain than genuine leather or suede. Microfiber is finer than cotton and even silk, and offers superior hand and softness.
Milling: The process of naturally softening the leather by tumbling it in a drum.
Natural Markings: The natural variations on hides such as wrinkles, scars, scratches, stretch marks, and discolorations. Most genuine leather will have visible markings, which is indicative of its natural origins.
Nubuck: Top grain aniline leather that has had the upper layer removed via buffing or sanding, to create a nap effect. Due to the lack of a protective top layer, nubuck is prone to stains and requires more care than other leathers.
Patina: A luster or shine that aniline dyed leather will develop over time and with use.
Pigment Finish: The coloring of a hide with opaque pigments. Colored hides are more uniform and fade-resistant.
Plating: A smooth, glossy finish created by pressing stainless steel plates into the hide with varying degrees of heat and pressure.
Protected Aniline: Aniline dyed leather which has been pigmented to ensure color consistency and stain resistance.
Pull-Up: The burst of lighter color that occurs when aniline leather is pulled tightly or stretched during the upholstering process as a result of the oil and waxes in the leather.
Pure Aniline: Leather which receives its color from aniline dyes with no topical applications, such that natural signatures of leather are visible.
Sauvage: A two-tone or marbled effect that adds depth and character to the leather. It may be created through tumbling, printing or painting the hide.
Sinuous Spring: This construction features steel S-shaped spring components fastened to the frame from front to back using sturdy eight-gauge wire closely spaced and reinforced with horizontal steel supports.
Soaking: The process of treating raw hides with water. Helps restore the moisture lost during curing and storage, and helps get rid of excess salt and debris on the hide.
Split Grain: The second layer of a hide that has been split from the top grain, then finished, usually with pigmented dyes. Split hides are less flexible than top grain, and are used for shoes, clothing, and it is used to manufacture more economical furniture.
Tanning: A chemical process which turns a raw hide into non-perishable workable leather.
Top Coat: Synthetic transparent polyurethane resins applied as a clear protective coating to make leather more resistant. May be gloss or matte depending on the style and type of leather.
Top Grain: When a hide is split into layers, the surface layer is referred to as top grain. Top grain is the most durable part of a hide split due to the strength of the fibers.
Vegetable Tanning: The use of vegetable tannins to convert rawhide into leather. Provides more firmness and a greater body to the leather as opposed to chromium tanning.
Vegetable Tannins: Tannins that are extracted from the wood, bark, and leaves of trees and are used during the Vegetable Tanning process.
Wet blue: The light blue color that a hide turns as a result of the chrome salts used during the chromium tanning process.
Weight: The weight of leather can be measured in millimeters as a thickness or as a weight in ounces per square foot. Thicker leather offers maximum protection and durability, whereas thinner leather offers more softness and comfort.