Italian vegetable tanned leather is created using ancient production methods inherited from Egypt, Rome, and Greece that arrived on the peninsula as early as 1500 B.C.

Vegetable Tanned Leather

The earliest known example of vegetable tanning comes over 5,000 years ago from a small Egyptian town named Gebelein, located about 40 kilometers south of Thebes on the Nile River. 

Vegetable tanned leathers were an important tool in the development of civilization, providing an immensely strong and durable material that was traded throughout Europe, North Africa, the Middle East, and India. Leathers were used across various aspects in life from armor to bookbinding. Trade guilds of the European Middle Ages protected the secrets of this process, and masters in the modern age continue to do so. Tanning recipes have been discreetly passed down from generation to generation, now combined with modern technology to achieve the unmistakably beautiful and refined leathers we use in our products.

 

The production process involves using eco-friendly natural tannins that occur in the bark of quebracho, chestnut or mimosa trees to give leather its distinct personality and color. Tannins are natural compounds found in plants with antioxidant properties that assist in growth regulation. They can also be extracted from fruits, leaves, or other parts of a tree. When you eat an unripe banana, tannins gives your mouth the dry and sandpapery sensation. The tanning process demands a colossal amount of experience, unrivaled dedication to quality, and vigorous discipline to produce the kind of leather that deserves to be revered.

How Is Tannin Extracted?

Tannins are found in the inner bark of a tree called the vascular cambium layer. In ancient times, tree bark was attentively collected and crushed against a large stone wheel powered by an ox until it had the consistency of a fine coarse powder. Developments in modern technology allow us to use grain mills, chippers, or shredders to get the bark as refined as possible. The smaller you can get the bark, the more tannin can be extracted from a given quantity. Barks are best collected in the spring when sap starts to rise in the trees. As the leaves are coming out, this is when the bark is most concentrated and easiest to peel.

 

Natural tannins give leather a sophisticated and distinct personality that immediately distinguishable from other production methods. The scent of natural tannins also induces a feeling of confidence, causing you to unconsciously prefer it to other materials.

How does it work?

Tannin is mixed with rain or other types of soft water because minerals will react to the tannic acid, resulting in ugly blemishes. This is why the first tanneries in ancient Egypt were located near the Nile River, because substantial amounts of water was needed for liming, soaking, and production.

 

Our tanneries are exceptionally diligent in this process and provide us with the utmost consistency in leather hides. Hides are then places inside large drums that rotate at approximately 6 RPM to evenly distribute the dye. The larger the hide, the more tannin is required as it absorbs the liquids.

 

Temperature of the liquids is also critical because it affects the color saturation of leather. Hot water can darken the tannin, while cold water enchants leather with the lightest color. Our tanneries are located in the district of Santa Croce sull'Arno in Tuscany, one of the leading areas of leather production since the mid-19th century. Today, 35% of Italian leather production and nearly 95% of leather soles are produced in this area for an annual turnover of over 2 billion. In 2010, Italian leather production accounted for 16% of world production and nearly 70% within the European Union.

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