FULL GRAIN LEATHER
Full grain leather includes the two crucial components of a hide- the "Grain" and the Corium. This Grain is what imparts strength, beauty and character to leather. Full grain leather is used to make very long lasting, very sought-after leather products.
This picture shows a thick hide of full grain leather that has not been thinned downed yet.
There is nothing fancy or complicated about a full grain leather hide. It is the least-processed, most natural form, and yet it is the least commonly available and the most expensive form of leather.
The main characteristic of full grain leather is that you can see unique markings; no two hides are the same. On most hides, there may be little scars, insect bites and folds in the skin acquired by an animal over its lifetime.
The retail industry cannot always work with full grain leather. Firstly, there is only so much of it available and hence its very expensive. Each hide may have many imperfections, which are sanded away and buffed to obtain a smooth, more uniform look. Many times, this buffed hide is also superimposed with another pattern which makes sure the look of the leather does not change over time. However, this also reduces the strength of the leather.
So the main difference between full grain and top grain leather is that the latter has the top layer ( grain ) heavily processed. This helps in giving a variety of options in terms of colors, feel and man-made markings, However, it reduces the strength of the leather.
1. Quality & Cost
Full grain leather is the highest quality grade of leather money can buy. It comes from the top layer of the hide and includes all of the natural grain. It is more expensive for manufacturers to buy and more difficult from them to work with. This is reflected in the cost to the consumer.
Top grain leather is the second highest grade of leather, and has the outermost layer of the higher removed. This difference makes the leather thinner and more workable from the manufacturer, which is reflected in the price compared to full grain leather.
2. Appearance & Durability
The natural surface of full grain leather is unique- it tells a story and reveals natural imperfections, marks, and even light brands in the surface. Full grain leather is extremely strong and durable, as the natural grain contains the strongest fibers in the hide. While strong and durable, full grain leather remains extremely breathable, resulting in less moisture from prolonged contact.
The natural grain from the top surface of top grain leather is sanded away, which removes imperfections and blemished. After sanding away the natural grain, top grain leather is imprinted with an imitation grain to give it a more uniform look. If uniform is what you're looking for, then you're in luck with top grain leather. The downside is, by sanding off the natural grain, they've sanded off the strongest fibers in the hide.
3. Aging & Character
As full grain leather ages, rather than wearing out, it burnishes and beautifies, developing a much sought-after patina and unique character that cannot be easily duplicated. Truly, the more you use it, the better it looks and feels.
The difference in top grain leather is a finish coat applied that provided protection against stains that would otherwise sink right into full grain leather. However, the refinishing process of top grain leather greatly reduces the leather's breath ability, and also prevents the leather from developing a natural patina over time.
Bottom line: if you're comparing full grain leather vs. top grain leather, they can both be good options, depending on what's important to you. Top grain is typically less expensive than full grain leather and even offers greater stain resistance if the finish remain unbroken. But if you're looking for leather that can lost a lifetime- and look good doing it-then, full grain leather is the way to go.