Comparing Vegetable Tanned vs. Chrome Tanned Leather

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About Leather Tanning

The leather tanning process involves preserving animal hides to make them resistant to degradation. This process also allows the leather to retain its softness, flexibility, and unique personality. Here we’ll look at two of the more common types of leather: vegetable tanned leather and chrome tanned leather.

What is Vegetable Tanned Leather? 

Vegetable tanning relies on a recipe that has been largely unchanged since antiquity. This method uses tannins from plants, trees, and roots to infuse the leather with rich, earthy tones. Performed by skilled artisans without any synthetic chemicals or artificial dyes, vegetable tanning is entirely organic and has a low environmental impact. While the process can last for months, the end result is beautiful, all-natural leather with a unique personality and a subtle earthy aroma. The longevity of vegetable tanned leather also exceeds that of all other available alternatives.

All of these benefits make vegetable tanned leather the perfect choice for high-quality accessories like handmade leather wallets, cardholders, and pocket organizers.

Advantages of Vegetable Tanned Leather

  • Long-lasting and durable, yet soft to the touch
  • Color deepens with age, developing into a rich patina
  • Completely organic and made without synthetic chemicals or artificial dyes
  • A true heritage product that honours a rich tradition of craftsmanship

Disadvantages of Vegetable Tanned Leather

  • Somewhat costlier than alternatives due to the lengthy and intricate production process
  • May be stained by contact with water unless there is a protective topcoat on its surface
  • Colors can fade from prolonged exposure to direct sunlight 

What is Chrome Tanned Leather?

Chrome tanning is a mass-production tanning method developed in the 19th century. This approach uses a mineral salt called chromium sulphate, which rapidly penetrates leather and can produce a finished product within a single day. As chrome tanned leather has high tensile strength, softness, and mechanical flexibility, it is suitable for applications such as upholstery, clothing, and gloves.

Chrome tanned leather can be dyed into an unlimited range of hues, making it suitable for “fast fashion” brands where color trends change quickly. However, the leather has a synthetic appearance and is prone to surface cracks and blemishes.

Most importantly, chrome tanning produces toxic by-products that can have a disastrous environmental impact if managed incorrectly. For this reason, it is essential to consider the reputation of the tannery before making a purchase.

Advantages of Chrome Tanned Leather

  • Usually the cheapest available option due to the rapid, efficient production process
  • High tensile strength, softness, and mechanical flexibility
  • May be dyed into an unlimited range of hues, from black to white and everything in between

Disadvantages of Chrome Tanned Leather

  • Usually mass-produced by unskilled labor, with low attention paid to detail
  • Synthetic appearance and smell
  • Lower durability, and is prone to surface cracks and blemishes
  • Environmental impact is relatively high due to the toxic by-products of the production process 

What About Leone Leather?

At Leone Leather, we use only full grain vegetable tanned leather sourced from a bespoke tannery in rural France. Its tanning process is environmentally friendly and gives our products a satisfying pebbled texture. The leather is semi-aniline dyed, which results in refined and sophisticated products that are resistant to water, staining and fading. Known locally as Chèvre Crispe, this unique leather is prized for its superlative softness, resilience, and strength. 

LEONE Leathercraft Tangerine Wallet Stylized on Piano

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