Leather is a durable and flexible material created by treating animal rawhide and skin by various tanning techniques. The type of skins used are also varied and often include often cattle hide, calf skin, lambskin, crocodile skins, goat skin and fish skins. It can be produced at manufacturing scales ranging from simple cottage industry to large commercial plants.
There are many types of Italian leather available on the market which can resolve your bag fetish, and It can all be a bit overwhelming to buy a leather product when you are unsure of what each of them means. Whilst Italian leather is the very best leather, there are sub categories to it to. Some types of Italian leather are better than others so it is important to understand what is what.
Some of the most popular leathers are full grain, top grain, corrected grain, split grain, suede, buckskin, patent, Nubuck and Napa, to name but a few!
Full-grain leathers have not been sanded, buffed, or snuffed and so the imperfections or natural marks on the surface of the hide remain giving it a unique look. The grain has strength, durability and also breath-ability, resulting in less moisture from prolonged contact. Rather than wearing out, it develops a patina when used. It grows better with age! High quality leather furniture and footwear are often made from full-grain leather. Full-grain leathers are typically available in two finish types: analine and semi-analine.
Top-grain leathers are the most common type used in high-end leather products. It is the second-highest quality. It has had the "split" layer separated away, making it thinner and more pliable than full-grain. Its surface has been sanded and a finish coat added, which produces a colder, plastic feel with less breathability, and it does not develop a natural patina. It is typically less expensive and has greater stain resistance than full-grain leather.
Corrected-grain leathers have an artificial grain applied to its surface. The hides used for corrected leather do not meet the standards needed to create vegetable-tanned or aniline leather. The imperfections are corrected or sanded off, and an artificial grain embossed into the surface and dressed with stain or dyes. Most corrected-grain leather is used to make pigmented leather as the solid pigment helps hide the corrections or imperfections. Corrected grain leathers can mainly be bought as two finish types: semi-analine or pigmented.
Split leather is made from the fibrous part of the hide left when the top-grain of the rawhide has been separated. During the splitting operation, the top-grain and drop split are separated. Depending on the thickness, the drop split can sometimes be split into several layers to yield the grain, middle split and flesh split. The split may then have an artificial layer applied to the surface of the split and is embossed with a leather grain called by cast leather (see below) or it can be used to make suede.
Suede is made from splits (see above). The strongest suedes are usually made from grain splits where the grain is completely removed, or from the flesh split that has been shaved to the correct thickness. Suede is "fuzzy" on both sides. Manufacturers use a variety of techniques to make suede from full-grain. A reversed suede is a grained leather that has been designed into the leather article with the grain facing away from the visible surface. It is not considered a true suede.
Buckskin is made from a tanning process that uses animal brains or other fatty materials to alter the leather. The resulting supple, suede-like hide is usually smoked heavily to prevent it from returning to a rawhide state, if wetted. It is easier to soften, and helps repel leather-eating bugs.
Nubuck is top-grain cattle hide leather that has been sanded or buffed on the grain side, or outside, to give a slight nap of short protein fibers, producing a velvet-like surface.
Patent leather is leather that has been given a high-gloss finish and usually has plastic coating.
Napa leather is chrome-tanned and is soft and supple. It is commonly found in wallets, toiletry kits, and other personal leather goods.
Please do not confuse artificial or faux leather with genuine leather:
Bonded leather or reconstituted leather is a cheaper material that uses leftover leather which are then shredded and bonded together with polyurethane or laxexon. Leather in the mix can consist from 10% to 90% and of course the amount of leather affects the smell, texture and durability. Its reduced cost makes it popular for furniture upholstery.
Bycast leather is a split leather with a layer of polyurethane laminated to the surface and then embossed. It is slightly stiffer but cheaper than top-grain leather but has a much more consistent texture. Because its surface is completely covered in plastic, is easier to clean and maintain, but is not easily repaired. It is often used for shoes.
So when you are choosing an Italian leather handbag make sure you know what type of leather it is that you are buying. They all look pretty similar and it can be confusing. Genuine Italian leather will not be artificial.