bison in front of mountain

Learn More About Our Leather Grading Criteria

The grade of your leather is important to take into consideration when you are thinking about purchasing a piece of clothing or an accessory made from animal hides. Different species, like bison, elk, deer, and cow, have skin that provides a variety of benefits once they are processed. From durability to versatility, and breathability to the leather’s general feeling, there are a number of qualities that you can specifically seek out between certain hides. Find out about leather grading from the experienced team at American Elk & Deer Leather below and learn more about what we can offer you!


What Is Leather Grading?

Leather grading, in the simplest terms, is determining the unique characteristics of any given material. It is used to indicate the durability, versatility, and general quality of the hide. This is useful when considering how the leather is going to be used. If you are utilizing it for a wallet or a simple accessory, you can get away with materials on the lower tier. They will certainly wear with time, but are cheaper and easy to work with. When you are planning on using leather to create something that needs to withstand environmental hazards and a heavy workload, you should invest in a higher-quality grade. There is no official standard for the grading system, but it is often split into four or five different categories, including:

  • Full-Grain

  • Top-Grain

  • Split-Grain

  • Bonded

  • Genuine

At American Elk & Deer Leather, we’ve developed our own grading system because we supply our customers with hides from wild animals that come straight from the United States. Our system may be a little different, but you can be sure that you are getting a fantastic product that was harvested ethically, by hunters that are operating during the appropriate seasons. All of the materials that we supply are durable, resilient, functional, and beautiful. Our grades are:

  • Craft Grade

  • Grade Three

  • Grade Two

  • Grade One

Each grade of leather has different qualities that set it apart from the rest, and we have simplified the process of understanding that system. Knowing the different leather grades is important when you are planning for your next project.


Craft Grade Leather

The least-expensive leather is, of course, the lowest-quality of the batch. It is comparable to bonded leather, which is made from real skin and synthetic materials. This is commonly used in commercial products because of its cost and the fact that it is relatively easy to work with. Craft grade leather is generally used for smaller items like bracelets and wallets. One of the downsides of this grade is that it is very vulnerable and tends to wear and tear fairly easily. You can also expect uneven colors and grain peeling over a period of time.


Grade Three Leather

Grade three leather from American Elk & Deer is designed for customers that are looking for “the suede side of the hide.” If you find a product that is labeled “genuine leather,” you are likely dealing with this material. It is known for its smoothness and glossy texture. One of the main considerations when working with grade three leather is that it can exhibit losses and holes at the center of its grain side. It is generally very pliable — it can be easily molded into clothing products and accessories.


Grade Two Leather

If you are looking for a high-quality leather that is versatile, but less expensive, grade two is the right choice for you. It is right below our highest grade, which means that you may notice some inconsistencies when it comes to its coloring. However, that is one of the reasons that this grade is unique. It also may feature some small holes or some scarring around its center. The grade two leather that we supply is comparable to the top-grain hides that you might find from other companies.


Grade One Leather

Grade one leather is the top tier material that we supply at American Elk & Deer Leather. It is extremely durable, meaning that it is less likely to feature extensive scarring or numerous holes. It is preferred by many because of its beauty, featuring lush, consistent coloring — you don’t have to sacrifice strength for visual appeal with grade one leather. No matter what you may be using it for, whether it is something as simple as a necklace or an item that you need to rely on, like work gloves, this is truly the premier option.


Different Animal Hides

Each and every animal has a different thickness and grain when it comes to their skin. This is because species develop hides that are suited to their environment. In colder environments that experience harsh weather, you can expect thicker, rougher skin. In regions that are fairly temperate, you will often find animals with thinner and lighter coats. Some different kinds of leather from various species include:

  • Deer - This type of leather is known for its softness. It is highly-resistant to moisture and can be washed repeatedly without compromising its condition. It is often used in clothing, sporting equipment, and jewelry.

  • Elk - Elk leather is renowned for its versatility. It is generally easier to work with than thicker hides, like that of a buffalo, but is also more durable than deer skin. It is also extremely soft.

  • Bison - The biggest benefit of working with bison leather is that it is incredibly durable and strong. This means that products that are crafted using this material will be long-lasting and stand the test of time. It is often used to make belts, bags, and wallets.

  • Cow - Alongside buffalo, cow leather is known for its durability and versatility. Frequently, this kind of leather will feature unique colors and designs, which is why it is frequently utilized when crafting furniture and coats.

Depending on what you are using it for, you have a wide variety of options when it comes to purchasing materials from a leather supply company. Each different hide brings something unique to whatever project you have in mind.



One additional factor to consider when you are investing in leather is the weight of the animal hide that you are working with. Much like your own skin, different animals have different levels of thickness. This is crucial because it can impact the durability and versatility of the leather that you are working with. Thicker, heavier skin, like that of a bison, are tougher, can endure more impact, and are highly resistant to scratching and tearing. However, they are also more difficult to craft with and can have a rougher texture. Skin from a deer is generally more lightweight and soft, but that comes with a higher risk of damage because they are more fragile. Depending on what you need it for, whether it is something that is fragile like jewelry or something that is going to be used for work, like gloves, make sure that you pay close attention to the weight of your leather.

Leather grading is a fairly straightforward concept, but it makes all of the difference in the world when it comes to the quality and longevity of the product that you are purchasing. Understanding the difference between grades can make all the difference in the world when it comes to the quality and usefulness of whatever item you have your eye on. Make sure that you know the difference between grades so that you can find the material that works best for you.

At American Elk & Deer Leather, we pay close attention to the grades that we offer. We can help you make the right choice for whatever your needs may be. Learn more when you shop our selection of leather today!