6 ways to spot cheap leather -- even at high-end stores

Leather BagsShutterstock/pzAxeDid you know that ‘genuine’ leather is actually the lowest in terms of quality?

The qualities of good leather are well known. It’s tough, it looks beautiful, and it ages with grace.

Poor leather, on the other hand, can pull the wool over your eyes — especially when it’s beautifully displayed in an upscale store.

Here are a few tricks to help gauge the quality of the next leather item that catches your fancy.

Real leather will always smell like leather. Fake leather smells like plastic and chemically treated leather usually smells like chemicals. That real leather smell is always preferable. Plus, it’s one of the key ways to tell leather qualities apart when they look roughly similar.

Look for labels marked “full-grain.” Full-grain is the best quality of leather you can buy, but if the label says “made with full-grain leather,” that might imply that part of the good is not full-grain. Meanwhile, “genuine” leather doesn’t just mean that the product is made of real leather (which it is); it also means it is the lowest quality of all products made out of real leather.

Look at the edging of the leather. If it’s blue, that means the tannery didn’t allow the leather to properly tan, according to the blog Put This On. You’ll notice the edges will sometimes be painted to hide the blemish — another sign that the piece you’re looking at isn’t the finest.

Look at the non-leather aspects of the product. An item of good leather quality will usually have quality stitching to match. Flaws in stitching, hardware, and lining can indicate inferior leather.

Pay attention to how it feels and looks. If the leather feels wrong (hard, plasticky, or thin), it probably is. Also look out for leather that appears machine-made or has a lot of blemishes.

The price of leather speaks volumes. This may seem obvious, but the cost of buying high quality leather is more or less fixed. Translation: that $US50 leather bag probably wasn’t made with the best quality leather.

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