Objects made of leather are different from objects made of synthetic materials. People used to think that synthetic materials were just as good as leather, but now there are a lot of synthetic materials that look like leather and are much cheaper. However, sometimes companies will call something “genuine leather” when it’s only partly made out of leather.
Distinguishing real leather from fake is not always easy. Some fake leathers look very similar to the real thing, but there are a few ways to tell them apart.
There are different types of real leather
There are different types of real leather. The most luxurious type is called full grain leather. The next most luxurious type is called top grain leather. Genuine leather is the third most luxurious type, and it is the lowest grade. There are also less luxurious types of real leather, such as bonded leather.
1. Be careful of any product that doesn’t say it is real leather.
Most manufacturers are proud to use real leather, and will list it as such:
Top/full grain leather
Made with animal products
Many genuine leather products have a label that says it is made from real leather. The manufacturer wants you to know that the product is real, so the label should be easy to find. If the label says “man-made materials,” or if there is no label at all, it is likely not made from real leather.
If you are not sure, but want to be careful, use the other tips to help determine how real the product really is.
2. Feel it
One way is to feel the material. Real leather is soft and smooth, while fake leather is often stiff and rough. Additionally, real leather will often have a natural sheen, while fake leather will look matte.
Leather has some imperfections that are actually good. This is because real leather is made from animal skin, which means that each piece is unique. If the grain on the leather is very regular and even, it might not be real leather.
Real leather might have scratches, creases, and wrinkles–this is a good thing!
Remember that as manufacturers get more skilled, their designs are better mimicking real leather. This makes buying online more difficult to do because you can’t see all of the details in the picture.
3. Press the material, looking for creases and wrinkles in the leather.
Leather that is real will wrinkle just like skin does. Synthetic materials usually just depress down under your finger, and they do not keep their shape as well.
4. Smell the leather
If you are not sure what the smell of real leather is, go to a store that sells genuine leather bags and try out a few bags. Ask if they have any synthetic pieces and smell those as well. Once you know what you are looking for, the smell differences will be unmistakable. Remember, leather is just worked animal skin. Faux leather is made of plastic. It might seem obvious, but real leather will smell like skin and fake will smell like plastic.
You can smell real leather – it has a slightly musky aroma – while fake leather will smell chemical and artificial.
5. Look at the edges
Note the edges- real leather has rough edges while faux has even, perfect edges. Machine made leather looks machine cut- it doesn’t look natural. Real leather is made of many strands, which naturally fray around the edges. Faux leather made from plastic has no such strands, meaning the edges are cleanly cut.
6. Fold the leather
Bend the leather to see if it changes color. The real leather will change color and wrinkle up a bit. Faux leather is much more stiff and regular, so it will be difficult to bend it.
7. The water test
Drop a small amount of water on the good. If it is real leather, the water will be absorbed quickly. If it is fake, the water will puddle up on top.
8. Look at the price tag
Leather goods are not usually cheap. If something is made completely of leather, it will be expensive. There is usually a set price for these products. You should shop around to get an idea of the prices of different types of leather, like real leather, semi-leather, and synthetic leather. Cow leather is the most expensive type of leather because it is very durable and easy to tan. Split leather is less expensive than top grain or belt leather.
To better understand the difference between real and fake leather, compare leathers that you know are fake with ones that you know are genuine. With practice, you will be able to see if a piece of leather is real or not. This way, you won’t waste your money on something that isn’t worth it in the end.
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