Below you will find a brief description of the types of leather used in belt production.
Full Grain Leather is the most expensive and valuable part of the hide. The term ‘Full Grain’ refers to the top surface of the leather where the animals hair has usually been removed leaving a natural grain – this is the strongest and most valuable part of the hide. It is long lasting and has a natural beauty developing a patina with age. The fibre structure is tightest and densest in the upper part of the hide and becomes looser, and less durable, as it progresses through to the lower flesh side. Less durable and cheaper grade leather is often made from hides that are ‘Split’ into layers and therefore lack the stronger top full grain surface. The lower layers are referred to as ‘Split Leather‘ and are not as durable as the Full Grain Leather. (see below).
Split leather is not as strong and durable as Full Grain Leather. When a hide is tanned it can be split into layers, first there is the Full Grain top service layer and then there are the layers underneath. The lower split layers do not have a top service and the fibres are looser than the top surface layer of the hide. As the lower split layers lack a natural top surface and have looser fibres it must be pressed and then coated if it is to be made into leather articles such as a belt. An artificial top layer such as polyurethane is applied which is often made to look like the surface of full grain leather. Any split leather that is coated often loses the top artificial coating relatively quickly and will therefore not improve with age.
Bonded Leather is correctly known as ‘bonded leather fibre board’. Bonded leather fibre board is a term for a material where tanned hides or skins are disintegrated mechanically and/or chemically into fibrous particles, small pieces or powders and then, with or without the combination of chemical binding agent, are made into sheets. This material can then be made into products such as belts. The bonded leather fibre board is usually coated with a polyurethane layer to give the appearance of full grain leather. The finish can be quite effective however belts made from bonded leather fibre board are rarely long lasting due to the nature of the material.