Of all the materials humans use in their everyday lives, leather probably tells the most stories. Like every organic material, leather matures over time, developing intriguing new characteristics as it ages. This is the patina – the weathered look and supple texture that results from the leather’s interaction with the world around it.
Patination is determined by a host of different factors; exposure to sunlight and heat, dirt, scrapes and scratches, natural oils in the skin, moisture in the air – all of these contribute to the way leather develops over time. Because every leather product leads a different ‘life’, coming into contact with all of the above factors in different combinations at different times, every leather’s patina is unique. The leather you own evolves with you, recording your experiences, telling your shared story on its surface.
But not all leathers patinate. In fact, a patina is a dead giveaway of a high-quality genuine leather product, and full-grain aniline or semi-aniline-finish leathers like those used Bill Amberg are more prone to patination than any other variety. Decades after it was made, an open full-grain leather product will still be strong and durable, but will have acquired a beautifully weathered look and a richer character, whereas a surface-finished leather product is unlikely to patinate much at all – fine if you like things to stay the same for ever; but a bit, well, boring if you don’t.
Like all good things, however, the patina is something you have to wait for. You can’t make it happen overnight, but you can help it along. Bill often says that the best way to care for leather is to use it; if you’re fastidious about keeping your products immaculate, wiping them clean, storing them meticulously, doing everything short of handling them with white gloves, you’ll have a longer wait on your hands. But if you’re a bit more relaxed and let your bag take a bit of everyday punishment, handling it frequently, letting it get rained on, not getting het up about the odd scuff and scratch, you’ll, eventually, be treated to a wonderfully characterful patina, with all your adventures, travels and battle scars written into the grain.
At Bill Amberg, we believe that the ability to patinate is one of the things that make leather a truly remarkable material and one of the reasons that it has been so beloved throughout human history. This is why we make a great effort to source top-grade, preferably vegetable-tanned, full-grain leathers with an aniline or semi-aniline finish that will age and weather wonderfully. In fact, if it weren’t for the power of the patina, we’d probably be in a different business.