Leather Buying Guide and Glossary

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This guide to leather furniture is filled with useful information and photos about the kinds of leather used in furniture.

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Leather Terms and Vocabulary:

Aniline Leather

Leather that has been dyed only with transparent aniline dyes; no opaque coatings have been added. The finest, full top-grain hides are aniline dyed.


Artificially aging a hide’s appearance. Usually hand-done; best suited for fullgrain leather.

Buffed Leather

The top surface has been removed from this leather by abrasion Leather from which. Also known as nubuck or suede.


The mechanical process, before coloration, that minimizes the scars and scratches on a hide.

Corrected Grain Leather

Leather that has an artificial grain embossed onto it after the natural range marks have been buffed out.


In upholstery terms, the entire hide of a bovine–about 45-55 square feet.


This is the process of removing the excess coloring, called the "crock," that rubs off of a newly-dyed hide.


This leather has been tanned but not colored or otherwise finished. Tanned leather is called nonperishable.


Also called antiqued leather.

Drum Dyeing

Also known as vat dyeing. Assures full dye penetration; hides are immersed in dye and tumbled in a steel drum.

Effect Coat

A smokey, marbled, two-tone look that adds surface interest and dimension.


Permanent, artificial, grain patterns added through heat and pressure to corrected grain hides.

Fat Wrinkles

Marks in leather grain caused by natural fat deposits. These marks are usually not seen in corrected grain leather.


During this process, oils are replaced oils that leached from the hide during processing.


Enhancements applied leather after the tanning process. Examples: waxing, waterproofing, dyeing, embossing, buffing and antiquing.

Full Aniline

These leathers get their color from dyes. They may also receive water repellants, topical stains and/or waxes.

Full Grain

Hides that have a natural grain pattern and that have not been mechanically altered. All aniline leather comes from full-grain hides.


Also called top-coating. The application of protective, transparent resins to the leather, resulting in a high-gloss or matte finish.


The natural pattern of pores and wrinkles on a hide.


An industry term for the feel of leather. For example, "The hand of this pure aniline leather is excellent–very soft."


Materials crafted to resemble genuine leather. The majority are plastic-coated fabrics or rubber.

Kela Sauvage

A mechanical process that adds a sauvagé look during the finishing stage. A relief roller creates a marbled look and enhances the finish’s character.


During this process, chemicals are used to remove hair from a raw hide.


Massaging of hides, through tumbling to ensure softness.


A term that describes the fuzzy, soft effect achieved by buffing or brushing.

Natural Grain

A leather that still displays its original, or "natural" grain.


Leather which is lightly buffed after dyeing (usually aniline dye) to produce a suede-like nap. Generally it features a moisture repellent. Should be brushed regularly to maintain nap.

Oil Tanned

These leather are tanned using oils that create a very pliable, soft finish.


The luster or shine that develops on leather surfaces with time and use.


Colorings and coatings to the leather to cover imperfections, resulting in wear and fade-resistant hides.


This process is used to mask imperfections in leather. It is achieved by pressing leather under a heated plate.

Premium Select

The finest leather hides available, exhibiting few imperfections. About five percent of all hides are premium select quality.


Considered a mark of high quality. "Pull-Up" describes leather that has been treated with waxes, oils or dyes. The result is that when the leather is pulled or stretched the finish lightens in the stretched areas.


A second finish added over an underlying tannage.


Adding depth to a hide’s finish, this marbled appearance comes from blending similar colors during the dyeing process.

Semi-aniline Leather

Hides that have been dyed throughout and have a surface finish applied. These leathers offer both a soft hand and protective benefits.

Shrunken Grain

A full, natural-grain leather which is shrunken to enlarge and enhance the grain of the leather.


The under layers of leather, generally finished as suede, or embossed with corrected grain for use on secondary surfaces of upholstered furniture.


A kind of split leather that has been brushed and buffed. The process creates a fuzzy surface. Normally used on the backs or sides and of low-end furniture.


The process of converting a raw hide into a stable, non-perishable state.

Top Coat

Synthetic transparent resins applied as a protective coating producing either a high gloss or a matte finish.

Top Grain

The uppermost layer of a hide. This is the highest quality part of a hide, applicable for fine upholstery leather.


A mechanical process that softens the texture and enhances the grain of hides. Hides are tumbled in drums for several hours.


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

Vegetable tanned leather has greater body and firmness than traditionally-tanned leather. A method of hide tanning which utilizes materials from organic materials such as bark instead of the traditional chemicals.


A term which describes the heaviness or thickness of leather. Typically given in ounces per square foot or millimeters (thickness).