by Allison Boyer
When shopping for leather furniture, you may notice that leather pieces have a much wider price range than furniture made with other materials. The pricing of leather furniture, in part, has to do with leather grade. Learning the grading system can help you choose the best leather furniture for your home. This leather furniture grades fact sheet should help you in your furniture hunt.
Letter and number grades: One of the most difficult things about leather grading in terms of letter or number systems is that there is no industry standard. In other words, grade-six leather might be drastically different in price and value between two different manufacturers. In-house grading systems are only convenient if you're comparing furniture manufactured by the same company.
Characteristic grading: One standard way of comparing leather is by looking at characteristics. This type of leather grading isn't a number or letter system, but manufacturers will use terms to tell you about leather's color treatment, texture and durability. The most important characteristics are aniline, pigment, grain and correction.
Aniline, semi-aniline and pigmented: Leather can be classified as aniline, semi-aniline, or pigmented. Aniline leather has not been treated with color in any way. It is least resistant to stains, as well as the most expensive, but has a completely natural look and feel. Semi-aniline leather has been dyed or stained, but in a translucent way so that some of the natural characteristics still shine through. Pigmented leather has an opaque coating of color, which is often stamped with a leather-like texture. It is the most durable and least expensive, making it a great furniture option for active families.
Top-grain versus split: Leather used for furniture is also typically characterized by the layer where it is found on the hide. Top-grain leather comes from the very outside of an animal. This type of leather is inherently more durable, since an animal's skin is its strongest at the surface. Split leather is found below the top layer. It is less durable and has fewer natural markings, but is also less expensive.
Correction: Leather can also be classified as corrected-grain, which means it was sanded or buffed. The terms full-grain and top-grain are sometimes used interchangeably, but this isn't necessarily accurate. Full-grain leather is a type of top-grain leather that hasn't been corrected. This is the most expensive and highest quality leather available, as it is most durable and natural. If top-grain leather is corrected on one side, velvety leather called nubuck is created. Split leather, on the other hand, can be corrected to create suede. Both top-grain leather and split leather can also be corrected slightly to create a smoother surface.