In general, goatskin leather is sold in three forms:
Full-Grain goatskin leather, made from the finest raw material, are clean natural hides which have not been sanded to remove imperfections. Only the hair has been removed. The grain remains in its natural state which will allow the best fiber strength, resulting in greater durability. The natural grain also has natural breathability, resulting in greater comfort. The natural Full-Grain surface will wear better than other goatskin leather. Rather than wearing out, it will develop a natural “Patina” and grow more beautiful each passing year. The finest furniture, and footwear are made from Full Grain stingray leather.
Corrected-Grain goatskin leather. Corrected goatskin leather is fuzzy on one side and smooth on the other. The smooth side is the side where the hair and natural grain used to be. The hides, which are made from inferior quality raw materials, have all of the natural grain sanded off, and an artificial grain applied. Top grain horse leather generally must be heavily painted to cover up the sanding and stamping process.
Suede is the interior split of the hide. It is “fuzzy” on both sides. Suede is less durable than top-grain. Suede is cheaper because many pieces of suede can be split from a single thickness of hide, whereas only one piece of top-grain can be made. However, as the look of full-grain is in demand, manufacturers use a variety of techniques to make suede appear to be full-grain. For example, in one process, glue is mixed with one side of the suede, which is then pressed through rollers; these flatten and even out one side of the material, giving it the smooth appearance of full-grain. Latigo is one of the trade names for this product.
Other less-common goatskin leathers include:
Patent goatskin leather is goatskin leather that has been given a high gloss finish. The original process was developed by Newark, New Jersey based inventor Seth Boyden in 1818. Modern patent goatskin leather usually has a plastic coating.
Shagreen is a rough and grainy type of untanned goatskin leather, formerly made from a horse’s back, or that of a wild ass, and typically dyed green. Shagreen is now commonly made of the skins of sharks and rays.
or brained goatskin leather is a tawing process that uses animal brains or other fatty materials to alter the goatskin leather. The resulting supple suede-like hide is usually smoked heavily to prevent it from rotting.
There are two other descriptions of goatskin leather commonly used in speciality products, such as briefcases, wallets, and luggage.
Belting goatskin leather is a full grain goatskin leather that was originally used in driving pulley belts and other machinery. It is often found on the surface of briefcases, portfolios, and wallets, and can be identified by its thick, firm feel and smooth finish. Belting goatskin leather is the only kind of goatskin leather used in luxury products that can retain its shape without the need for a separate frame; it is generally a heavy weight of full-grain, vegetable-tanned goatskin leather.
Napa goatskin leather, or Nappa goatskin leather, is extremely soft and supple, and is commonly found in higher quality wallets, toiletry kits, and other personal goatskin leather goods.
Goatskin leather is sold in a variety of thicknesses. In some parts of the world top-grain thicknesses are described using weight units of ounces. Although the statement is in ounces only, it is an abbreviation of ounces per square foot. The thickness value can be obtained by the conversion:
1 oz/ft² = 1/64 inch (0.4 mm)
Hence goatskin leather described as 7 to 8 oz is 7/64 to 8/64 inches (2.8 to 3.2 mm) thick. The weight is usually given as a range because the inherent variability of the material makes ensuring a precise thickness very difficult. Other goatskin leather manufacturers state the thickness directly in millimeters.