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The Real Facts About Leather

Leather is the strongest upholstered materials known to man. Nature has created its strong physical structure by weaving an intricate network of leather fibers. This strength allows the furniture manufacturer to pull leather down tightly without fear of tearing it. Leather will not readily burn or melt, and unlike most fabrics and vinyl, it is extremely difficult to puncture. Because of recent improvements in tanning processes, today's leather will remain supple indefinitely, yet won't stretch out of shape. Finishes and dyes applied to quality leathers are permanent and won't crack, fade or peel. Leather can stand up to the rigors of daily life in the home and office with minimal care.

The softness of leathers available today is far superior to products of just a few years ago. However, the new soft leathers are just as durable as the stiffer leathers. These stiffer leathers have been finished in a way that affects only the look, not the durability of the leather. Very soft leathers wear as well as ones with many top coats and sealers. Heavy glazes merely make the leather stiffer, much like starch does to a shirt; it does not make it thicker. The leather's sheen is a matter of individual taste and is controlled by the tanner when the leather is ordered.

Unlike imitation leathers, genuine leather will not become hot and sticky in summer, nor cold and clammy in winter. Because leather is a natural material, it breathes, which makes it comfortable year around.

Upholstery leathers used by reputable leather furniture manufactures are permanently preserved in the tanning process and do not need any of the care and cleaning with saddle soaps, oils, etc., associated with other leather products.

Unlike fabric upholstery, leather can be expected to last an average person's lifetime with proper care. Although the initial investment may be more expensive, leather is actually cheaper than fabric upholstery in the long run.

There is no other material to match the feel and aroma of genuine leather. Over the years, leather becomes richer and more supple and will acquire a soft patina like a well- worn glove or saddle. No two pieces of leather are alike; each has its own natural markings which make it unique.

Why some leathers are more expensive than others

There are a number of factors which determine the cost of a given leather including:

1. The quality of the hide
Top grain steer hides are the strongest and most durable leathers available. As a general rule, lower priced leathers will have a higher percentage of healed scars and other natural markings. However, all hides will have some of these markings. This is purely a cosmetic difference since there is no variation in the durability of the leather from the least to the most expensive.

2. Method of finishing or dyeing
Full aniline dyed leathers are more expensive than semi-aniline dyed leathers because of the difficulty in finding superior hides. Also, leathers which have been hand antiqued are generally more expensive than leathers finished by machine spraying.

3. Popularity of a given color
As you might expect, the cost of producing a large quantity of hides in a single color is less expensive than a few hides in custom colors. When a large quantity of hides in the same color is produced, there is very little setup cost. This savings is passed on in a lower priced finished piece of leather furniture.

4. Imports vs. domestics
Leather is currently imported chiefly from Austria , Scandinavia , Germany and Italy , as well as being produced domestically. The Europeans have been making leather furniture for centuries. Therefore, the acceptance of leather furniture in Europe is phenomenal - nearly half of the upholstered furniture sold in Europe is leather-covered. As a result, there are many fine producers of upholstery leather in Europe who have refined the art of making leather soft and supple. In fact, Europeans are the originators of the aniline dyeing process which results in the softest leathers available today. In many cases, leathers of this quality are not available from domestic sources.

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