Vegetable-tanned leather (veg tan) is leather that has been tanned using tannins from tree bark, wood, leaves, fruits, and the like. It typically takes about two weeks to tan hides with this method. Veg tan can come in a variety of tempers, but is generally hard wearing and has excellent tooling, carving, and dying potential. Veg tan is a very light brown/tan color, but is very frequently finished at the tannery with different dyes, oils, and waxes.
Veg tan leather is known to wear beautifully and gain a patina over time. It is sought after because veg tanned leather products share a story--your story. It ages as it interacts with your natural skin oils, leather oils and conditioners, and the sun. It softens with use. No two veg tanned products are exactly the same, so each owner has a unique item that will age with them and help tell their story.
Vegetable tanned leather comes in a variety of weights and is typically used in bags, belts, wallets, and book binding.
Chromexcel is the original pull-up leather. Pull-up is a particular type of tannage, not a type of animal hide. It is very commonly cowhide and horsehide. Pull-up leather is impregnated with oils, waxes, and fats and is very responsive to interior pressure. One can see the color of the leather lighten as they apply pressure to the flesh side of the leather. This lightening is the result of the oils and waxes shifting inside the leather. It can be massaged back to its original color quickly. Chromexcel is a very highly sought after leather, as it is tanned in the US and is a very high quality leather. Many shoe manufacturers, including Wolverine (right here in west Michigan), use Chromexcel for their highest quality products.
Chromexcel comes in a variety of colors and weights. It is used for applications ranging from shoes, to wallets, to belts. It is renowned for its complexity of color, rich pull-up, and beautiful wearing qualities.
Chromexcel takes about 30 days to tan, as it is a retanned leather--meaning it is vegetable tanned and then chromium tanned.
Shell cordovan is a very rare specialty leather. Only a handful of tanneries in the world produce it, and only one tannery in the US, Horween, produces it. We currently get our shell cordovan from Horween and also from Joseph Clayton and Sons located in the UK. Shell cordovan is made from the rump of a horse. Each horse only produces two shells, each of which are approximately 1.5-2 square feet. The leather can take up to 8 months to tan. Supply is generally very limited and demand is generally very high.
Shell cordovan is a very dense, hard wearing leather that is known to last life times. It is revered for its depth of color and rolling folds. Shell does not crease or show loose grain like some cowhide does, because of a "glass layer" between the epidermis and the corium. It is typically used in men's shoes and accessories.
Because of its high quality, limited quantity, and difficulty in tanning, shell cordovan is some of the most expensive leather in the world.