Genuine leather has carried an aura of luxury and status for many years. It is a valuable commodity and never goes out of style. Because of its versatile nature and unique character, it is available in a variety of design, finish, colours and strength, which makes it a great choice of material for high-end fashion bags and wallets, garments, footwear, belts and upholstery for furniture and luxury cars.

Genuine leather is purely obtained from nature, derived from animal skins. Because of it being available from a variety of animals like cow, buffalo, goat, sheep and even more exotic animals, it is available in different textures and patterns. The leather from each animal source is different from the other. Leather obtained from sheep is soft and great for wallets, whereas those obtained from buffaloes can even be used for laptop bags and jackets due to its inherent strength. Leather can be treated to further improve its suppleness and overall finish.

Nowadays, there are many factories which manufacture leather lookalikes. Referred to as Artificial Leather, Synthetic Leather, Faux Leather, Leatherite and Polyurethane (PU), they look very similar to leather but there are differences which most common men would not understand. Made using petroleum, they almost feel like plastic and are quite hard and rigid. Also, they do not absorb moisture which leads to the products being quite uncomfortable to the user. Products made out of artificial leather may be economical, but the leathers often peel off quickly and are not very durable compared to real leather.

Here are a few tips to help you distinguish between real leather and fake leather.

  • Examine the leather: Artificial leather can be distinguished from real leather by examining the leather itself. Although both artificial leather and pure leather seem to look the same at first glance, the pores will be very consistent and even in case of artificial leather. Since genuine leather is natural, the pores will be uneven throughout the leather. Also, it will have marks, scratches and imperfections which will not be uniform, which is a characteristic feature of real leather.

  • Inspect the edges: Real leather is a natural material which frays around the edges, which means that the products made out of real leather will be rough around the edges. Products made of artificial leather will have near-perfect edges as the edges are cleanly cut at the time of the production of the material. Also, genuine leather will fold gently and curve around the edges due to its elastic nature. On the other hand, artificial leather is more rigid, and will not curve as smoothly.

  • Touch and feel the leather: Pure leather will feel different from artificial leather when touched. Genuine Leather will be soft and supple. Due to the natural origin, it tends to be a little rough. Artificial leather, on the other hand, will feel like plastic. It will be hard and artificially smooth throughout, with no inconsistencies in the surface.
  • Smell the leather: Although the look of genuine leather can be imitated, the smell of pure leather cannot be imitated by synthetic leather. Genuine leather has a natural scent which is unmistakable. Since faux leather is artificially made, it does not have any smell or it may exude the faint scent of plastic or chemical.

  • The Water Test: A more accurate way of determining whether the leather is real or not is to sprinkle a drop of water on the product. Unless real leather is made water-proof, some water will get absorbed in only a few seconds. This will not make the contents wet, nor will it affect the quality of the material. When a drop of water is poured on artificial leather, it will not be absorbed by the material but will just slide off the surface. This is because plastic does not absorb water. However, do keep in mind that pure leather inherently cannot stand too much water and may get spoilt if it gets too wet.

  • The Burn Test: Another definite way to test if the leather is genuine or not is to try burning the leather. Genuine leather is resistant to fire and will not be engulfed in flames when burnt. It will just wrinkle a bit at the edges and get charred slightly. On the other hand, artificial leather can burn completely and smell like burning plastic. Made out of plastic, which is derived from petroleum, artificial leather is highly inflammable in nature.

Both genuine leather and artificial leather products can be found at a bargain price. One has to be absolutely sure if he is buying real leather if he/she is looking out for one. Keep these tips handy when you go out to buy a leather product when you shop next time.