Vegetable Tanning vs Chrome Tanning: Advantages and Disadvantages
Vegetable tanning and mineral tanning, what are the differences? For some of our watch straps we use vegetable tanned leather. This process, although ancestral, is still unknown to the general public but have no fear Charlie Paris is here to explain to you how this type of leather is obtained.
1. But what is vegetable tanning?
Tanning is the process that transforms animal skins into supple, durable, rot-proof and water-resistant leather.
Vegetable tanning is the first tanning method used by men, since the Middle Ages this process was widely used. Before being tanned, the skin underwent some alterations.
It is first salted or dried in order to be preserved. The latter is then rehydrated and peeled in order to remove hair and subcutaneous tissue. The skin is finally ready to be tanned! So that the skin is transformed into leather, the latter is immersed in large vats saturated with Tannin. The vegetable tanning process therefore uses tannins; These are substances of organic origin present in the bark, sap, leaves and roots of plants. On contact with animal skin, these tanning agents transform it into leather.
The leather, now tanned, undergoes 2 more stages, grinding and finishing which make it possible to obtain the desired thickness and finish of the leather depending on its future use.
If the process could extend over several months or even years at the beginning of this practice, the vegetable tanning currently used lasts between 1 and 2 days. Today, the vats, unlike the beginning of the tanning industry, are much more saturated with tannin, which speeds up the process. By using only products from the biosphere, vegetable tanning is a method considered more environmentally friendly as for vegan leather.
The leather obtained by vegetable tanning will have beautiful natural colors which will patina and take on a unique color over time. Vegetable tanning produces slightly stiffer and firmer leathers, unlike ostrich leather or chrome-tanned leathers. However, its touch will be softer and silkier
You will have understood that vegetable tanning is not to be confused with vegan leather which has no animal origin. It is a textile imitating leather which is created using the fibers contained in certain plants, the best known of which are the pineapple leaf or even the fibers of the eucalyptus. However, the term vegan leather remains an abuse of language and a beautiful oxymoron. The name "leather" is protected by a decree which stipulates that leather must necessarily come from animal skin.
2. What about chrome tanning?
The vegetable tanning method is not the only method for tanning leather. The most widespread technique is mineral tanning or chrome tanning. In fact, more than 85% of tanned hides in the world come from mineral tanning, a process developed at the end of the 19th century using mineral tannins, mainly chromium sulfate. This process is widely used because it tans leather much more quickly than vegetable tanning; it only takes a few hours for the mineral tannins to transform the hide into leather.
The advantage of chrome tanned leather is that it will not move, the color will not change over time. The other major advantage of chrome tanning is that we can apply brighter colors to the leather, like some of our bracelets.