We often get the following two remarks. One is; “We can get the same couch for R5,000.00 cheaper at…”. The other is; “We bought this couch at this very nice looking dealer and the leather came apart”. Now my answer is always, if you bought a couch for less than the price we pay for the leather alone, you must know there is something wrong. Then people react by saying that they did buy genuine leather. This is most probably what they bought from a large retailer:
To prepare leather for furniture it has to be split into a top layer and a bottom layer. The top is called the full grain and the bottom the split grain. The split grain is usually used for protective gloves or products that does not need to last long.
In order to achieve an easy to clean and care surface and to let it look like a more valuable top grain leather, split leather is sometimes coated with a plastic film layer. Especially in the lower price segment, the customer is not informed that they don’t have high-quality top grain leather, but inexpensive split leather with a film coating. Unfortunately the cheap, coated split leather’s life expectancy is significantly shorter than that of top grain leather.
How do you distinguish between top grain and coated split grain?
You smell it! Smell it on the smooth side. If it smells like chemicals or plastic, it is not top grain leather. Do not be fooled by the leather look on the back. You have to check that, but you also have to smell the leather.
Remember, if it is too good to be true, it usually is just that! You may be buying leather, but you may be fooled into believing it is quality top grain leather. That couch that is R5,000.00 or R10,000.00 cheaper will tear and crack within the next 5 years – if it does not break before that, because if you are being cheated with the leather, you are probably also being cheated with the frame!