Last updated on April 2, 2023
Leather is a natural material produced from the hides or skins of animals. It is produced by tanning the skin using tannins to help alter the protein structure of the skin to preserve and make it durable. This tanning process actually changes the chemical structure of the proteins in the hide. The end result is leather that is pliant, supple and durable. The use of leather dates back to the stone age. In modern times leather has been replaced in many instances by synthetic materials. However, leather is still used by some designers as a high-end material to produce luxury goods, such as quality backgammon sets. In this post, the Deluxe Backgammon team will take a brief look at some of the types of leather we have seen used on luxury backgammon sets.
This is not an exhaustive list and we do not claim to be experts on the topic. This is simply a description of some of the types of leather we have come across during our time researching quality backgammon sets.
Full grained leather
Full-grained leather includes the entire top or grain layer of the hide, without any removal of the surface. It is extremely durable and will develop a patina over time rather than wearing out. Full-grained leather is recognised as the highest quality and most expensive leather. This is the type of leather you would expect to find on the very best backgammon sets. Full-grained leather can include natural variations in pigmentation and imperfections such as scars on the surface of the material.
Corrected grained leather
Corrected grained leather is similar to full-grain leather in that both are created from the top layer of the hide. The key difference is that the top layer of corrected grained leather has been sanded or buffed to remove the blemishes. An artificial grain can then be imprinted on the surface. Corrected grained leather is considered the second-highest quality leather. A luxury backgammon set such as the Aspinal of London 17-inch Backgammon Set in Deep Shine Amazon Brown Croc will have used corrected grained leather.
Nubuck is top-grain cattle leather that has been sanded or buffed on the grain side, or outside, to give a slight nap of short protein fibres, producing a velvet-like surface. The outer layer (top-grain) of hide is tougher and more resilient than the inner layer. Because nubuck is made from top-grain leather, it is more durable and tough compared to suede, which is made in a similar manner. Nubuck is most likely to be used on the playing field of a quality backgammon set. Due to its textured nature, nubuck can easily become dirty and quickly absorbs liquids.
Suede is made in a similar fashion to nubuck, except that it is the inner layer of the hide that has been sanded or buffed. Because the inner layer of the hide is softer than the outer, this produces a softer and more pliable material than nubuck. However, nubuck is the more durable material. The velvety, tactile qualities of suede make it a popular choice for playing fields on luxury backgammon sets. As with nubuck, suede can be easily stained or marked with dirt because of its textured nature.
The term genuine leather is confusing. At Deluxe Backgammon we assumed that this meant a good quality leather. In fact, it is the lowest quality of leather. It will be made of real leather, but it will consist of several layers of low-quality leather bonded together with glue and painted to look uniform. Essentially, it is made from the scraps of the hide after the better quality grades of leather have been removed. This is not the sort of leather you would expect to find on a boutique backgammon set.
Split-grain leather is made from the lower-quality, inner layers of the hide. It is thinner and not as strong as full grain leather, but it’s also more flexible and has a softer feel. Because of its lower quality, split-grain leather is usually less expensive than other types of leather. Split-grain leather can be more prone to stretching and tearing than full grain leather.
At Deluxe Backgammon we appreciate the beauty and tactile qualities of natural leather. There is some debate about whether or not leather should be considered a sustainable material. It is certainly natural and biodegradable. Although not necessarily eco-friendly due to the chemicals that could be used in the tanning process. It is certainly not animal-friendly. However, it could be argued that using the hides available as by-products of the meat industry is simply ensuring that nothing goes to waste.