March 31, 2021 3 min read


A term that we all hear quite often, which is casually thrown around, is “genuine leather”. Often items that look like leather are labelled as genuine leather, or are assumed to be genuine leather when they are not.

Further misunderstanding occurs when products are crafted from genuine leather and are labelled as such but are made from Split leather, which is the lesser quality part of the genuine leather hide, from when the hide is split. The thickness of cow hides can vary before the tanning process, and in order to acquire a uniform finish, the leather is split horizontally to various thicknesses. These different layers decrease in quality the more they are split, as when they are split, they decrease in thickness and strength.


Full top grain leather is the highest quality cut of leather that you can possibly get. It is obtained from the natural hide where only the hair has been removed from the skin. This top grain leather hide is skillfully removed and features all of the natural grains, unique scars and blemishes that the animal gained over the course of its life.


These animals live their lives outdoors, thus they are constantly exposed to the elements. These stretch marks, veins, scars and tick bites are signs of a life well lived, and should not be considered to be defects or blemishes as they add character and a unique authenticity to the leather.

These unique markings can be buffed out to create a more uniform and clean appearance. However, if you would like a more natural, authentic leather sofa these unique natural markings are left in. There is also the chance that there may be colour variation across the hide. Similarly, to humans, the pigmentation in the skin can vary, and in certain places may be more or less pigmented than others either due to external forces such as the sun, or occur naturally as part of the skin. 

Once a cowhide has been split it is categorised into top grain leather, which is the top layer of leather, and split leather, which is the bottom piece of leather. Split leather is crafted from the fibrous part of the hide once the top grain has been separated from the raw hide. Split leather is often referred to as suede due to its rougher texture, and requires heavy pigmentation and plating to avoid having a rough, textured effect.

Some furniture retailers choose to use split leather on furniture rather than using top grain leather as it is more cost effective for them. It is not advised to use split leather when crafting quality furniture, especially on areas of a sofa where there is frequent movement as it will start to split and fray after a while. When split leather eventually starts to split and fray it can make your furniture look cheap, and ultimately become unsightly. 


Split leather is often mistaken for being good quality leather because people attach the label “genuine leather” to the products. While the products may be made from real, genuine leather and not fake leather, it is not the highest quality of leather available, and thus people will find that their leather furniture starts to split after a few years. 

Leather Gallery is fondly known by our customers and community as the "home of leather". Our commitment to providing only the very best quality genuine leather furniture pieces has propelled us to the forefront of the premium furniture industry. Our extensive, and ever-growing range of leather sofas, leather recliners and leather home theatre suites features an extraordinary array of shapes and styles, from sleek and modern to simple and traditional, we have something for everyone.