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The leather industry is regarded as one of Man's oldest industries. The use of leather dating back to as early as the Palaeolithic ages is evidenced by cave paintings depicting people in leather clothing. Leather can be made from any animal skin. In order for the skins to be suitable for purpose, they must go through a process called tanning. Skins were originally tanned with the primitive use of animal fats, wood smoke and tannin (a chemical found in barks and leaves, but today most often encountered as residue in a teacup or as sediment in a wine bottle).
Nowadays, a lot of the processes are highly scientific with a large number of leathers being tanned using the chrome tanning process; a method involving chemicals, acids and salts. This is a quick process that takes only a day, and makes leathers soft and supple, and thus perhaps more suitable for modern day living.
Although we do use some Chrome-tanned leather, at Pickett we use a lot of British leathers that have been hand-finished using traditional vegetable tanning methods (which involves natural ingredients such tree bark). This process can take up to 40 days to complete.
The majority of the leather we use is cowhide, goatskin or lambskin. Over the millennia leather has proved itself a durable, natural material with a broad range of uses. Nothing compares to its unique look and feel, making it a highly desirable material to work with.
We are proud to say that all of our leathers are by-products of the meat and fishing industries.
We use a top grade, hand finished, British Bridle hide to make a wide range of our larger products. It is a traditional, quintessentially British leather that has been used over the centuries and is a stalwart member of leather goods industry. Naturally tanned using vegetable products and with a tallow-waxed finish, Bridle hide will develop a rich patina and natural sheen with use. This natural tanning process ensures a hard-wearing leather that improves with age, making it ideally suited to products that are used daily such as briefcases and belts.
Natural markings on the surface of the leather
You may well notice small irregularities and marks in the surface of this leather. These are natural scars that the animal has incurred during its lifetime, and do not in any way compromise the strength or quality of the leather. Rather, they actually confirm that this is the uppermost surface of the hide, which is the strongest and tightest grained part of the leather. Some bridle hide leathers are from the lower part of the leather and have a plated finish, so although they don’t have the natural scars, the leather is not nearly as strong.
We are proud to say that our bridle hide is of a quality that there is no need to use any re-enforcements in our products and it is nearly as smooth on the reverse of the leather as it is on the front. It is for this reason that we don’t use lining fabric on many of our bridle hide products, ensuring that the full quality of the leather is appreciated.
Due to the thickness and heavier nature of this particular leather it is not suitable for small items as reducing the thickness of the leather can compromise its natural strength.
Bridle hide products include Bridle Hide Attache case, Traditional Bridle hide Briefcase, Jstyle Single Pocket Briefcase, C11 Bridle hide Belt, Book Cover.
Box Calf is a smooth, finest quality soft calf hide with a subtle sheen on its surface. Calf is a classic, hardwearing leather, but it can be vulnerable to surface marks with initial use. Any minor marks on the leather should eventually fade over time. We tend to use this leather for men’s wallets and some small leather goods, as the skins are relatively small, and so not suitable for larger items. We generally do not use this leather for products that need more resilience to the day-to-day wear and tear, such as ladies’ purses, as these items are more prone to getting marked in handbags etc.
Our Calfskin products include classic wallets such as our Calfskin Short Wallet, Calfskin Compact Wallet with Lizard Lining and our Classic Tall Wallet.
Crocodile & Alligator
Crocodile and Alligator are the most expensive of the exotic skins and have a very soft, smooth-scaled surface, each with a unique scale formation. The skins are finished in either a highly polished gloss or with a natural unpolished matt. The skins are strong, pliable and very durable.
Crocodile Skins Explained
The skins have 3 main areas:
1) Centre cut: this is the unique formation of scales that have a sense of mirror image, either side of the central and commands the highest price.
2) Flank or side cut: these are the larger and more irregular scales
3) Tail: this cut has longer and thinner oblong scales, graduating in size as you move further down the tail. This cut is most suitable for small leather goods.
The price of individual products made from these different areas of the skins can vary enormously depending on where they have been cut from. The skins can often be reasonably small, so we usually only make smaller products such as Wallets, Card Cases and Handbags using these skins.
Whilst we generally use alligator for our products, we do use crocodile too. Though biologically different, there is very little difference between the two in terms of leather. Crocodiles and Alligators belong to the same order of Crocidylia, and the terminology of these skins tends to be based on where you live. For this reason, it is quite usual in Europe to refer to both products as ‘Crocodile’, whilst in America both are more usually referred to as ‘Alligator’, in both instances regardless of from which animal they have actually been made.
The main difference is that crocodile have hair follicles and sensory pores on towards the outside edge of the scales, which an alligator does not. This translates into leather from a Crocodile having very small dots where the follicles and pores were, whereas the Leather of an Alligator is perfectly smooth.
As with the Lizard skins, it is illegal to trade Alligator and Crocodile without a full CITES licence. This enables a strict monitoring system for these luxury skins.
Most of the deerskin we use is from New Zealand, where they specialise in producing a particularly fine and luxurious quality of this leather. The tannery we use tan this leather using 30 different processes. The rigour and skill of these tanners ensure that the finished product has the premium feel, quality and unique ‘handle’ of this beautifully soft and naturally grained leather. Due to its softness and its ability to take colour extremely well, deerskin is ideally suited for handbags, and small leather goods such as our Deerskin Short Wallet or our Men’s Deerskin Gloves.
Lizard skins feature beautifully intricate, small but completely flat scales with a high sheen finish. It is a soft, fine, and beautifully polished skin, resulting in ‘jewel like’ colours. Lizard skins make for fine, yet hardwearing products. The skins are generally quite small, so it is best suited for making our small to medium handbags such as our Classic Lizard Clutch bag, purses, wallets such as our Compact Short Wallet with Lizard Lining and smaller leather goods.
Where do the Lizard skins come from?
Our Lizard skins are usually from the Nile Monitor Lizard (Varanus niloticus). These lizards live in Africa where they are used for food and the skins are then a by-product. Whilst there are no conservation measures in place for these lizards, it is still illegal to trade these skins without a full CITES licence to ensure that there is a comprehensive monitoring system in place for the trade these luxury skins.
Lowick is a naturally grained, goatskin leather. It is beautifully fine, very durable and takes colour extremely well, resulting in a gentle two-tone effect. Goatskin is akin to pigskin but has a finer grain. It is thus very hard-wearing and resistant to marks, resulting in a very neat and fine quality to all the products in this leather.
Lowick leather tends to be used for smaller leather goods due to the size of the skins such as stud boxes, credit card cases, purses, jewellery boxes, and iPad covers, but it is equally useful for any larger items (where skin size makes it possible) such as our games selection and homeware range.
Mellis is a gently grained soft calfskin leather. It is beautifully fine and supple, with fantastic durability which gives it excellent resistance in day to day wear. It takes colour extremely well, resulting in a gentle two-tone effect, and tends to be used for smaller leather goods such as credit card cases, jewellery boxes.
Perhaps our most distinctive looking leather, Ostrich leather is recognised by the unusual raised ‘spots’ that map where the bird's quill feathers used to be. The raised spots are predominantly across the central section (‘crown’) of the leather. The rest of the leather is fairly plain in appearance, either smooth or with very small spots.
The ‘crown’ only constitutes approximately 1/3rd of the skin as a whole, so whilst we use the ‘crown’ for the most visible part of the products we make, such as a handbags and purses, we do also use the rest of the leather for the less visible and interior parts.
Ostrich leather takes colour extremely well, so we are able to use this versatile leather to make a wide range of our products, from large handbags down to all of our smaller leather goods, which we produce in a beautiful selection of vibrant and also traditional colours. It is extremely hard-wearing and is one of the few leathers that improves with age, developing a beautifully rich patina and smooth softness with use.
Embossing Ostrich leather
One thing to bear in mind is that ostrich can be more difficult to emboss due to the irregularity of the spots. Any of the plainer areas of the skin however takes an embossing pigment very well.
Shadow hide is a naturally tanned cow hide leather. Similar to bridle hide Shadow Hide is tanned using an oil rather than wax, so the consequent leather has a more flexible finish. This leather develops a rich patina and natural sheen with use, which also improves with age.
We use this leather for most of our small products and box work as the oil in the tanning process gives Shadow Hide a suppleness without compromising on strength. Whilst suitable for smaller work, Shadow is generally too light to use for our large products, lacking the rigidity to be made into a briefcase. As with Bridle hide, there may be small natural marks in the surface of the leather. Once again, this doesn’t in anyway compromise the quality or strength of the leather, but rather confirms that the leather is from the surface of the skin; the portion that constitutes the highest quality leather.
Our Shadow Hide products include cufflink boxes such as our classic Small Cufflink Box and Sixteen Section Cufflink Box, as well as Watch Boxes, Tidy Trays and Men’s Wallets.
Stingray skin is also known as Shagreen. It is a very unusual leather, each skin having a unique, soft and shiny pebble-like texture, and featuring an individual pearl-like cluster of natural markings in the centre of the skin where the dorsal fin would have been.
Each skin can take colour differently depending on the size, age and constitution of any particular Stingray, so items made from this leather are all slightly different. This leather is highly durable and is resistant to water, heat, and surface damage. Despite being soft and malleable skin, the surface is of the scales is as hard as shell and is accordingly difficult to stitch. This can be restrictive for the use of Shagreen in making products where lots of intricate or detailed stitching is required.
Stingrays are not in any way an endangered species and are found in abundance throughout the Pacific where they are fished commercially. Our skins are a by-product of the fishing industry.
Shagreen is used for our small evening bags and accessories.
Stonham Soft Grained Leather
Stonham is a soft-grained cowhide leather. The grained, soft finish to the leather is created during the tanning process, wherein this particular leather is tumbled in a large drum. This process creates a product that is creased and soft to the touch, yet highly durable, remarkably lightweight, easy to work with. This resilient leather is well suited to handle the wear and tear of day to day use, making it ideal for luggage and bangs
Examples of Stonham leather products include wash bags, full-leather luggage and our popular Melton Tote Bag.