Breeding ostriches is a profitable business. In addition to healthy dietary meat and eggs, the ostrich industry gives us magnificent feathers of an exotic bird. Besides, ostrich skin, thanks to its original texture and incredible suppleness, is a popular choice for top-shelf leather products such as wallets. But what are the benefits of ostrich leather in comparison to other types of leather, and why is the price so high? Read on to find out the answer.
Ostrich Leather Features
Ostrich leather is an exotic material. Although ostriches are not exotic animals in the sense that they are not endangered, ostrich leather is way less common than leather made of cattle skin. Oftentimes, it is a luxurious option for top-notch designer products due to the combination of several factors: rarity, beautiful texture, and great wearability. Here are some of the most prized features of ostrich leather:
• It is pretty thick yet supple and soft. Due to these qualities, it is possible to craft wallets of any shape and design.
• It is wear- and tear-resistant. A quality-made ostrich leather wallet will last for three decades and even longer.
• Ostrich leather is water-resistant. Surprisingly, in terms of resistance to elements, it is superior to crocodile leather. It is due to a high content of natural oils. The said oils also help prevent cracks and surface damage.
• Ostrich skin lends itself well to dying. Ostrich wallets and other products crafted from this exotic leather are available in so many colors and patterns.
Three Types of Ostrich Leather
When it comes to the appearance of ostrich leather, it is highly valued for its bumpy texture called the crown. Quill follicles, which are sacs from which feathers grow, give the surface an original and exquisite ‘pimples’. Only about the third of ostrich skin features the raised pattern. It is located on the bird’s back, from the neck to the tail. Other areas of the skin that lie left and right from the crown are smooth and similar to cowhide.
It is common to use the crown for the front portion of wallets in order to put the most valuable part of the hide on display. At the same time, smooth parts are used for wallet interiors as well as cheaper products.
Ostrich leg leather is lesser known than quill-marked leather but it deserves a lot of praise, too. Just like the crown, it is supple, soft, and durable. Its highlight is large semi-rectangular scales grouped in the center of a hide with many smaller scales flanking it. A scale pattern is unique to every bird, so if you choose a wallet made of this particular type of ostrich leather it will be one of a kind. Similar to bumpy leather, designers try to put the distinct scale pattern on the most visible part of a product.
Why is Ostrich Leather Expensive?
Ostrich skin lends itself well to processing and tanning, but this is a laborious process. Because of the unique bumpy or scaly texture of ostrich hides, it is impossible to process them mechanically. Until now, all stages of leather tanning are carried out manually. It goes without saying that manual processes are more time, cost, and labor-consuming, hence a high price.
One more factor that contributes to a hefty price tag is a relatively small area of the crown. As we have already mentioned, 2/3 of the hide doesn’t feature quill follicles. So, if you’re hunting down ostrich bumps specifically, you have to fork out. On the other hand, the smooth part of ostrich leather is relatively inexpensive, although it is still pricier than leather obtained from cattle.
Last but not least, you should remember that ostriches are originally African birds. Although ostrich farms are now found around the globe, leather tanning traditions are the strongest in the Dark Continent. The most prestigious brands order leather hides from African manufacturers, not only because of the highest quality but to support local communities. Hides produced in other countries may not be worse in quality but they can’t boast authenticity coming with original tanning crafts.
How to Tell Real Leather from Fake
Such beautiful and expensive leather could not but result in many fakes. Oftentimes, unscrupulous manufacturers try to pass embossed cowhide for ostrich. Needless to say, substitutes and counterfeits will never have the properties of real ostrich leather. Inexpensive skins simply don’t feature the same thickness and resilience, let alone they lack oil content.
If you want to make sure that ostrich leather is genuine, here is what you can do:
- press one of the bumps with a fingernail. If it easily sinks in, it is fake;
- look closely at the pattern. If a series of bumps repeat, it is not real ostrich leather;
- rub leather between your fingers. Genuine ostrich leather should kind of creak.
If you are lucky to come across real ostrich leather, it will serve you throughout many seasons of your life. Despite a seemingly lofty price, it is a great investment in terms of practicality and fashion.