One of the signs you can look for in a high quality leather is what’s called “patina”. But what is it, and does all high quality leather develop it over time?
Short answer – Not necessarily.
But, let’s go over some details and start from the beginning.
What is Patina?
Patina happens with an assortment of materials. With metals it’s defined as “a usually green film formed naturally on copper and bronze by long exposure or artificially (as by acids) and often valued aesthetically for its color.” A perfect example being the Statue of Liberty. Similarly wood, denim and waxed canvas can produce their own patina over time. With leather, patina is better defined as “a surface appearance of something grown beautiful especially with age or use.”
How does it happen?
Quite simply – age and use as the definition states. What happens with certain types of leather over others (more on this below) is that it absorbs traces of the things it comes in contact with. The natural oils of your skin as you handle the item, dirt, dust, moisture, sunlight, even scrapes and scratches are considered in some ways patina.
Some spots will have a beautiful sheen, normally atop a warm honey color look. Other area of the leather may be darker, black or softened up. In the end it tells a beautiful tale of aging and the experiences the leather has had over time. As unique as the individual who possesses it.
It takes time though. And for some it’s a status symbol of high quality leather they’ve had for quite some time. Some try to speed up this process and to a certain degree you can. Expose it to the elements. Let the rain, snow and sunlight hit it. Ignore using leather conditioners and other chemical products marketed to protect the leather. In doing so, it inhibits absorption needed for patina to develop.
“It’s just a natural aging process which serves as some to being a status symbol.”
Best Types of Leather for Patina
Since the process itself involves absorbing traces of it’s immediate surroundings, the best type of leather for developing patina would be the most natural, unfinished leather.
Vegetable tanned (veg tan) leather is what you really want. Especially undyed and without and finish coats. Chrome tanned, dyed or treated leather won’t develop as much of, if any patina at all. That’s not to say those leathers are not as high of a quality! The difference there is those leathers tend to keep their appearance with little to no change over time.
Patina itself does not affect the longevity of leather either. It’s just a natural aging process which serves as some to being a status symbol. An unquestioned stamp of quality leather.
Are you on-board with patina or do you prefer a leather that looks the same or similar over time as it did when you first bought it? There’s no shame in your choice. No right or wrong answer. In the end it boils down to preference.
So, which do you prefer?