Vegetable Tanned Leather vs Chrome Tanned Leather

If you’re investing in leather, chances are you’re looking for a unique natural beauty that gets better with age. If durability is important in your handcrafted leatherworks, look for Vegetable Tanned Leather.

Vegetable tanning dates back thousands of years and relies on an extended and complex process of soaking animal hides in vegetable tannins. This process can take up to two months, with multiple treatments and highly skilled laborers to ensure the desired quality and appearance. The leather chosen by the most skilled leatherworkers is itself a work of skill and craft.

Chromium (chrome) tanning is a relatively new approach, dating back to 1858, as tanneries looked for ways to expedite the process and save money. Chrome tanning, which is currently used for approximately 90% of the leather market, can take as little as two weeks to process and costs considerably less than vegetable tanning as a result.

Vegetable tanning is a natural process, relying on tree tannins and water. By contrast, chrome tanning relies on chromium salts and tanning liquors that must be heavily managed and closely monitored to minimize environmental impact.

In terms of durability, both vegetable tanning and chrome tanning have their benefits. Chrome tanned leather is fairly water-resistant making it best for products that may be subjected to heat or humidity, while vegetable tanned leather is thicker and holds up to more rugged or daily use. With proper care, vegetable tanned leather can last for many decades.

Chrome tanning can be used to produce a wide variety of colors from black to bright pink and teal, which makes it the choice for the fashion industry where trends change quickly. Leather that has been chrome processed may fade slightly but otherwise shows little color change over time. By comparison, vegetable tanning is known for deepening the natural colors and fibers of the hide. After years of use, vegetable tanned leather caramelizes with a beautiful patina that only enhances its rich, natural beauty.

Whatever your finished product may be, using the right materials ensures its long-lasting beauty. We recommend vegetable tanned leathers, made by our skilled craftsmen for your own handcrafted leatherworks.

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