Glossary

Name applied to leather that has retained its original grain, whose coloration is obtained by immersion in a dye bath, and which does not receive an additional layer of finish.

This is regarded as the finest of leathers, as it retains its original grain, and allows it to show through. Its surface is somewhat exposed, and consequently it is not easy to care for.

Unsplit vegetable-tanned sheepskin, usually from a woolled sheep.

Calf, cow, bull, buffalo.

Calf leather with a smooth appearance, which is used to produce upmarket leather goods and footwear.

Term denoting a leather with a velvety appearance. It has now been replaced by suede.

Goat, both wild and domestic.

This used to be manufactured from real chamois skins treated with fish oil, but is now produced by processing domestic sheep or goat skins, under the name “wash leather”. The associated technique is known as “oil tanning”.

Name applied to leather or to the flesh side of leather, which is covered with a coating or film, the thickness or lamination of which exceeds 0.15 mm but is no more than one third of the product’s total thickness.

Leather obtained by tanning the hides of cattle (bull, bullock, caw).

The drum is the typical machine for tannery: it consists in a cylinder rotating around its own axis, filled with water, tanning agents and skins. The drum used to be a simple wooden cylinder  and  has now transformed into a complex computer-controlled machine that regulates the input of water, the temperature, the speed of rotation, and the release of tanning agents.

Leather decorated with motifs, normally using a hammer.

The strongest type of leather, which retains its original thickness.

This technique, which is more refined than reverse-welting but equally strong, is named after the machine’s inventor. The shoe’s component items, such as the welt, the upper and the sole, are assembled by means of two rows of stitches that are invisible once the shoe has been completed.

Leather whose surface grain is visible.

Tanned hide with an uneven and dark marbled appearance, and whose oil content exceeds 15% on average. This leather is therefore heavily fat-liquored (usually inside a drum), and in view of its heavy weight, is used mainly for footwear and sometimes for apparel.

Grain-pattern leather made from goat or sheepskins used for book covers and bookbinding.

Megissiers take small raw animal skin (such as lambs, sheep, goats and exotic creatures)and convert them into leather. (See Tanner’s definition).

The leather is tanned using chromium sulphate- based (Chromium III) tannin, which renders it supple and elastic.

A thick tanned goatskin, with a characteristic grain that is visible, broad and uneven. It was originally manufactured in Morocco. Bookbinders make extensive use of it as it is very strong, pleasant to the touch, and lends itself successfully to decorative work (gilding and inlaid work).

A leather made from cowhide, which is buffed on the grain to give it a velvety surface. It is particularly sensitive to light, and requires specific upkeep techniques.

Lamb and sheep.

Leather that has received a finish that involves applying a thick layer of varnish to produce a characteristic shiny appearance.

Name applied to leather or to the flesh side of leather whose coloured finish is obtained by the use of pigments.

Leather that retains its original grain, though a pigment protection prevents it from suffering damage. Its appearance and handle are less natural than those of aniline full grain leather but its upkeep is easier.

Hide or skin that has been treated solely in order to preserve it before it is processed.

(also known as Norwegian welting) The upper is fixed to the sole by means of a double stitch on the leather, which is visible on the outside of the shoe. This technique was originally used for mountain boots.

Hand-stitching with two needles.

Aniline-dyed leather, incorporating a quantity of pigment small enough not to impair the hide’s natural characteristics.

Leather derived from a sheep or lamb whose wool has not been removed. Normally produced from short-fleeced sheep.

Leather whose thickness has been reduced while retaining the grain side.

Leather or skins prepared the opposite way round (flesh side) from normal. Their velvety appearance is created by buffing.

Tanners take raw animal skins and convert them into leather, using tannins made from mineral salts, vegetable matter or a combination of both. Skins from large animals (such as calves, young cattle, cows, bull-calves, bulls and buffalo) are known as hides. The same products from smaller animals (such as lambs, sheep, goats and exotic creatures) are referred to as skins. In French, a distinction is drawn between the processing of hides (tannerie) and of skins (mégisserie).

Transformation of animal hide or skin into leather, using either chromium salts or vegetable tannins, to render it rotproof.

The leather is tanned using tree bark, fruit, roots and leaves. Often very firm, it possesses no elasticity and is sensitive to light. It is used for saddle-making, shoe soles and industrial beltings.

Tanning term used to refer to leather in its blue state, which is obtained immediately after mineral tanning and prior to dyeing and fat-liquoring operations.

Tanning term used to refer to leather in its white state, which is obtained immediately after vegetable tanning and prior to dyeing and fat-liquoring operations.