Our topic of the day is top grain leather versus split grain leather. In my experience most folks do not understand what top grain leather really is; what topgrain means. The majority think that the word “top” in top grain means that it is the top quality or best leather. In a general sense topgrain is best, but that’s not what the term really means.
A cowhide is generally thicker than what you would think it is; and thicker than what is used for furniture upholstery. A hide has an approximate thickness of a nickel. By nature, all hide has a denser cell structure at the surface, on the top, than they do deeper under the surface. Now knowing that, let’s go to the tannery where they will shave/cut the typical hide into three layers in order to create a leather that will be of suitable thickness to be of use for furniture upholstering. While all three of these layers are considered to be leather, only the top layer, the densest part of the hide, is considered to be top grain. Top grain leather is the strongest upholstery material in existence. The undercuttings, the other two layers, are referred to as split grain leather; these are weaker, lesser dense parts of the hide which are not suitable for use in producing quality leather furniture.
Many of the overseas imports coming into the United States today are built with a large portion of the piece upholstered in these weaker split grain leathers. Using split grain leather will certainly lower manufacturing costs, which will result in a lower pricepoint at retail, but it lessens the overall quality of the furniture as well. Shopping for a quality piece of leather furniture means accepting nothing less than 100% top grain leather.
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