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Understanding Leather Grades


Custom made leather furniture comes with many leather options. What are the differences in the grade numbers? Why are there different grades of leather? Is grade 1 better than grade 4 or is grade 4 better than grade 1?

First, all top grain leathers are good. They are the most durable part of a leather hide, the first cut. The differences in the grades can be found in the finishing of the hides, the origin of the cows and of course the price.

Grade 1 Leathers:

These leathers are the starting price point in our online catalog. 

Grade 1 leathers are usually from Brazil, China and some Domestic. Most of the hides in this price point contain scars or surface blemishes. To make the hides suitable for upholstering they are lightly sanded down, and the surface is embossed with an artificial grain pattern that hides the blemishes.

Most of these leathers have a consistent color with little or no shade variation.

You will also see a consistent grain pattern across these hides. These hides are usually finished (protected) from both water and oil-based spills. They are considered exceptionally durable and good for high traffic areas. 

Best for sun exposure, pets, spills and kids.

Grade 2 Leathers:

These leathers are not a corrected grain but a full grain. This means these hides are left in their most natural grain pattern. You can find both finished and semi aniline leathers within this grade. Many of the grade 2 leathers will offer variations in the shading which gives the color depth and interest.

Grade 2 leathers will price approximately 10% - 15% higher in price than a grade 1 leather. Most grade 2 leathers are well suited for high traffic use but not all. For specific’s reach out to customer service.

Great for sun exposure, pets, spills and kids.

Grade 3 Leathers:

Mostly but not always a mix of finished leathers, semi aniline leathers, and pure aniline leathers. That means some will have protection and some will not. The most natural looking or distressed leathers are pure aniline but not all. These leathers will show a wear story as you use your new leather furniture.

Scratches, body oils and any spill will change the color of the pure aniline hides. Most leather connoisseurs consider these hides to be the top of the line. However, many do not like that their leather chair changes on the daily. It is all in the eyes of the beholder.

Some of the grade 3 leathers are good for sun exposure, pets, spills and kids. Call for specifics.

Grade 4 and Above Leathers:

Expect these to be pure aniline leathers. The most expensive hides! With leather hides, the more you do to them the least valuable they become, like a grade 1.  With these high-end leathers the least amount of work brings the biggest price tag. These hides are so perfect that they are only dyed. No other prep is taken.

This means that any scars, brands, tick marks or insect bites will be left in place and not removed when upholstering your new leather sofa. Again, you must love the look and feel for it to be worth the cost. Cowboy or distressed leathers can also be found in these grades of leather.

Decorative Leathers:

Durable and mostly reserved for areas you do not sit on or have skin contact with because these leathers are not generally soft and supple like other top grain leathers.  These decorative leathers can include embossed crocodile, ostrich, and lizard. Also, within this category you will find real hair on hide that is used for the same accents.

This is a general overview of the differences in leather grades and types of leather.

For more information on specific’s see below each grade for a better explanation or phone us at 843-557-1000.

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