What is Leather Patina?

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What is Leather Patina?

Patina: A hallmark of quality, age and character.

Wikipedia sums up leather patina as the following:

"A term is used to describe the ageing of high-quality leather. The patinas on leather goods are unique to the type of leather, frequency of use, and exposure."

Now those who have spent any amount of time on here, on my social media channels or even just within earshot of me will know. I really pride myself on using only THE best vegetable tanned leather. If you need to know the difference between veg tanned and chrome tanned, I have written a summary. You can punish yourself by giving it a read.

Patina: more than just jargon

Patina is part of the ageing process that effects most high quality natural materials such as wood, canvas, metal and stone. It forms from simply being used, exposed to outside forces such as the elements, or from being handled and worn.

Each time it is exposed to the sun, its tone will deepen like getting a tan. Each interaction with you or the outside world creates a mark, dip, divet, imperfection or sheen that you cannot artificially generate... It takes time, and it'll be 100% unique, and be a mark of the time you've shared with your piece.

Think of it like a memento of everything the piece has been through, a unique diary of the time you've spent with it. Every bump, rub, scratch and breeze. With lighter leathers this will be more dramatic, but its even the case with darker ones, although it will be more subtle.

But, Can you speed up the development of patina?

Sure can... kind of. The best most natural way of doing this is just to use it. BUT really use it, man handle it, wear it around the house, grab it, chuck it about and give it a beating.

Another thing you can do is, leave it out in the sun, this helps the pieces colour develop. It is skin after all, it is only natural it will, essentially, get a tan. Do this with one caveat, try to avoid rain, a small shower wont destroy the piece, but dont let it get soaked! It won’t thank you for it.

If like me, you live by the sea, wear it on beach walks, the salt air will help develop the patina and add unique elements.

Also, don’t worry about washing your hands too much, the oils from your skin will really help add some character. (In a COVID-19 world, this one is a bit harder when out and about but at home alone it should be doable, with extreme care.)

In short, dont treat it too gently, leather is a very hardy material that is shaped by its journey and environment.

Wait? Can I slow down the development of patina?

Well, yes you can, but like King Canute, you're working against inevitable change. And candidly, I never understand why youd want to do it.

However, to slow the development of patina you can do 3 things.

1. Keep the piece in an environment that has no light and is well ventilated. This will help delay the "sun tan" and help slow other environmental effects.

2. Clean and Reseal your goods, you can do this by simply making sure to wipe down the piece and then use a high quality oil or wax for the piece. Im a traditionalist I like to recommend a Mink Oil, but be aware, the colour will drop anyway if you finish it regularly!

3. Be careful with it! Do not handle it too much, avoid touching it and certainly dont give it a bashing!

No two items will ever be the same.

I think it is a perfect metaphor for being human. For we are all shaped by the outside influences, by our environment, by the challenges and stresses faced. And, in my opinion we should all take a lesson from leather, and wear them proudly, as a badge of honour,  embracing our unique character.

So if you want a piece that is as unique as you. You know where to come.