Buyer Beware. 100% leather?
Bycast, Bicast, split leather or corrected grain leather is often referred to as just 100% leather. If the “100%” part of the statement is in reference of the sides and back of cushions being covered in leather material as well as the touchable surfaces of the furniture there may be some truth to it. In that case the whole chair, 100% of it does have leather covering it.
What are they not saying when they say 100% Leather?
When the specifications of the furniture in question state that it is made with 100% leather but it does not state 100% full Grain Aniline Leather then it is made using 100% Corrected Grain Leather. Most, if not all reproductions in the mid price range are upholstered with Corrected Grain. Corrected Grain is technically a form of leather that has a layer of polyurethane applied to the surface, which is then stamped or embossed using a synthetic plastic print roller to have the appearance of leather. If you looked carefully you would see the same pattern repeat over and over. This Bycast method was originally created for the shoe industry and recently was adopted by the furniture industry. The good news is grain corrected or Bycast is less expensive to use. The drawbacks from this polyurethane embossed topical layer is an artificially consistent texture, a plastic feel, reduced breath-ability and furniture that will not patina over time like 100% aniline top grain leathers. When that embossed polyurethane top layer wears through, your option is new furniture or a complete re-upholstery job.
100% Aniline- it will cost more
Aniline dyed leather comes with various names depending on the manufacturer or the furniture company. You may come across names like premium aniline, naked aniline, aniline full grain, or true aniline, they’re all the same. Aniline is leather that has been dyed all the way through. It has no artificial top layer of anything applied. It is soft, pliable with a texture that caresses the hand as it runs over its surface. The porous nature of aniline leather allows it to breathe which in turn makes it that much more comfortable and durable.
Want to keep it really simple?
Do not have the time nor interest to become a leather expert? A rule of thumb to keep in mind if you are shopping for premium leather Aniline furniture that will last for generations: the softer the leather the higher grade it is and expect to pay a higher price.
ADDED 02-01-2011 – Additional Information From Wikipedia on Bycast Leather
The use of the term “leather” in relation to this bycast treatment is considered a misrepresentation and therefore not permitted in the United Kingdom and New Zealand. Furniture made with bycast exhibits none of the characteristics associated with genuine leather; it will not develop a patina or suppleness nor otherwise “improve with age”. With constant use the polyurethane layer will crack and split free of its backing.