Types of leather in plain English
A leather belt or saddle is more than twice as thick as your furniture leather; the reason is they split the hide. For example the very back of the hide could make suede leather. It is the top of the natural hide that is best. When it is split the lower portion is often used on cheaper furniture for backs and outside arms; it is stiff and lacks breathing and flexibility.
To allow this back hide to be used the surface is ironed flat and a heat roller creates a grain effect ranging from light grain to a heavy crackle finish that would never be seen on a natural hide . This back hide is frequently used for outside arms and outside backs on the less expensive furniture. Likewise the top surface on natural hide is often treated the same as the lower one, with the re-grained surface. Why do they do it? Well the animal has had accidents with wire fencing, bitten by flies, over its lifespan, and in India that's a long time. In the trade they talk of corrected grain, what a load of rubbish, if they are going to iron it flat and start again it's been re grained. Less damaged leather hides might have been heat rollered only to make the grain uniform, but any re graining can be ironed out with heat from your backside over the years.
You hear of ITALIAN leather for over 90% of suites sold in the UK, do you really think the Italians have that many cows? No they import the hides and due to their poor condition have to re-grain the leather after first filling in the damaged areas. The result is a damaged area could have been used on the seating section, years later when a hole or split appears little Johnny gets the blame. As you might have gathered I am against re-grained hides, and prefer the natural finish even if it can represent 20% wastage on the hide.
So why buy from third world countries you might ask, don't we have enough cows in this country and most of them are slaughted at 3 years? It's all about money, A hide from India would cost between £20 - £30, a UK hide closer to £200 including VAT. Italy have a leather furniture industry and sending in a finished product in leather conforms to EU regulations. In the UK the allowance of these bargain hides goes to 2 manufactures and the rest of us can get lost. This explains why I colour my own hides so there is less wastage and more than one customer can come off the same hide.
I am avoiding technical names use in the trade, as they will be of no help, there is one to mention though called Nubuck leather. Nubuck is the top natural hide lacking the protection of colour, it has been through dyed like you would clothing, and has a softer feel. To recognize Nubuck just wet your finger and see if it soaks in leaving a dark patch, if it does then my advice is foster the children out, get rid of that pet, and never eat within 100 yards of your suite. Nubuck is the ultimate in leather, only using the best hides, unless you are well heeled with a genuine lounge with a lock on the door, it's not for you.