Shopping for quality leather items can be confusing. Labels can be misleading, and some of the imitation items look almost as good as the real deal. This guide gives you ten simple steps to determine if that “genuine leather” item you are planning on buying is the real deal or not:
- The Texture can help you determine if the leather is authentic or imitation. Full-grain leather has a rich, elegant finish with naturally occurring pores and imperfections. Because real, full-grain leather begins as living skin, the grain will always be random and unique.
- Touching the leather is another great way to check for authenticity. Press your finger onto the surface – genuine leather has a soft, sometimes buttery feel. Real leather begins as living, breathing skin so it is elastic, somewhat pliable, and will wrinkle when pressed. Imitation leather feels like plastic. It will depress and remain rigid and stiff.
- Bend it – genuine leather will wrinkle and change colors naturally. Manufacturers use chemicals to create the coloring in imitation leather, so there are no color changes.
- Check the Edges. Genuine leather has many strands that will naturally fray around the edges. Imitation leather is machine-cut plastic and will have smooth edges.
- Check the Grain. As genuine leather begins as living, breathing, skin, it will have an uneven grain texture that is somewhat random. Quality full-grain leather will have naturally occurring “imperfections,” bumps, or scratches. These “imperfections” add to the beauty and the quality of the leather. Authentic full-grain crazy horse leather will change color hues when scratches occur.
- Check the Pores. Because authentic leather is organic skin, it will have inconsistently placed pores – just like our own skin. Imitation leather may try to copy the natural look of real, organic leather - but a closer look will show you uniformly patterned pores stamped onto a synthetic surface (usually PVC).
- Checking the Scent is a simple way to know if the product is genuine. Authentic leather has a natural, earthy, organic, skin-scent that cannot be machine duplicated. Imitation leather smells like synthetic chemicals and plastic.
- Perform a Water droplet test on a small patch of leather. Authentic leather has pores and will absorb water. Water will bead up or roll-off imitation leather.
- Check the Price – 100% authentic leather is expensive. Split leather pricing is somewhere in the mid-range. Split leather can be misleading – many times, people see the “Genuine Leather” or “Split Leather” label and believe that they are buying a high grade of leather. Split leather is a low grade of leather. Split leather and genuine leather are both made from the leftover, fibrous parts of the hide. These “leftovers” are mulched, bonded to an artificial layer, then embossed to look like authentic leather. Imitation leather is the least expensive and is usually PVC.
- Read the Care label. If an item is 100% authentic full-grain leather, the manufacturer will proudly post it. Be on the lookout for deceptive labels - Genuine leather is a specific grade of leather, not the phrase for real leather. An item labeled as Genuine Leather can signify a low-grade leather, a split leather, or even an imitation leather with a tiny bit of leather leftovers added to the mix. If the label says “man-made,” the product is synthetic.
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