Exotic Leather Blog

What Are the Toughest Exotic Leathers?

Posted by Abram Mendal on Jan 26, 2017 10:59:16 AM

Stingray skin is durable and water resistant, but also kind of hard to work with for some.There are a lot of characteristics that fashion designers need from their exotic leathers beyond just an attractive appearance. One frequently overlooked characteristic of exotic leather is toughness.

Tougher leathers are less likely to scratch, scuff, or tear than less durable ones—which helps products made from these leathers last longer.

When you’re looking for an incredibly tough exotic leather for your next high fashion accessory or design project, here are a few great choices:

1: Stingray Skin

Why it’s so tough:

One of the most durable exotic leathers on the market is stingray skin. This hide is covered in countless tiny calcium-rich bubbles that resist scratching, scuffing, and puncturing with ease. The hide also has fibers that run in random directions, making it difficult to tear—most leathers have fibers that run in consistent directions and will separate more easily.

Stingray skin is also naturally water-resistant, and does not stain easily.

This combination of traits makes stingray skin ideal for hard-use products where exposure to scrapes, liquids, and other hazards would be common.

Major drawbacks:

The biggest drawback to using stingray skin is that it is somewhat rigid compared to other skins. Stingray skin’s incredible toughness can also make it difficult to cut and sew—which means more time and effort spent on the manufacturing process. The usable panel size a stingray skin provides can range between 4” x 6” (0.16 sq. ft.) and 14” x 20” (1.94 sq. ft.).

Ideal uses for stingray skin:

  • Tables
  • Tool handles
  • Hard-case handbags
  • Boots

2: Shell Cordovan Leather

Shell cordovan leather is roughly ovoid in shape, and is very durable.Why it’s so tough:

Shell cordovan leather is made from the flat, fibrous muscle tissue from the rump of a horse. These dense tissues have a high tensile strength compared to other leathers, meaning that a strip of cordovan leather can hold more weight than an equally-sized strip of most other leathers.

The surface of shell cordovan leather is resistant to scratches and scuffs, and most minor scratches/scuff marks are easily cleared with a specialized conditioner. In fact, the primary use of shell cordovan used to be for making leather razor strops to sharpen straight-edge razors.

Major drawbacks:

Because shell cordovan comes from the rump of the horse, its size is limited. Most of these hides are about 2.5 square feet in size. 

Ideal uses for shell cordovan leather:

  • Footwear—particularly dress shoes
  • Wallets
  • Razor strops
  • Bracelets
  • Straps
  • Belts
  • Small, structured handbags

3: Arapaima Skin

Arapaima skin is very durable, yet flexible.Why it’s so tough:

The arapaima is one of the world’s largest freshwater fish—and it shares a home with the infamous piranha. Arapaima skin has an impressive two-layer design that acts like a natural armor for the fish. The top layer of skin is covered in hard, puncture-resistant scales while the bottom layer is almost gel-like to absorb impacts.

This makes arapaima leather very durable and resistant to scratching, yet highly flexible as well.

Major drawbacks:

The unruly fish scales may not work well with some high-fashion concepts. The cost per skin is higher than that of shell cordovan or stingray, but the size is also much larger (8 sq. ft. versus 2.5 sq. ft. and 1.94 sq. ft., respectively).

Ideal uses for arapaima skin:

  • Large, unstructured handbags
  • Garments
  • Pillows
  • Blankets

These are just a few of the toughest exotic leathers on the market. Any one of these could make an excellent material for a hard-use product that has to be both distinguished and tough.

Learn more about exotic leather and find the perfect addition to your next high-fashion project today!


Topics: stingray skin, shell cordovan leather, arapaima skin