nature leather in Iran
You may not have thought it before but the history of Iran nature leathers is a fascinating area of interest, and these pages guide you through the origins of leather-making, timelines and leather restoration and conservation.
The Story of leather
Primitive man hunted wild animals and removed the hides and skins from the dead animal carcass and used them as crude tents, clothing and footwear. Excavation of palaeolithic sites has yielded bone tools used for scraping hides and skins to remove hair.
The skins rapidly putrefied and became useless, so a method of preservation was needed. The earliest method was The earliest method was to stretch the hides and skins on the ground to dry, rubbing them with fats and animals brains while they dried.
Much later the use of earth salts containing alum as a tanning agent to produce soft white leather was discovered. The alum leathers could be dyed with naturally occurring dyestuffs in various plants.
Early Leather Production
The earliest crude leathers were made by first immersing the raw hides and skins in a fermenting solution of organic matter in which bacteria grew and attacked the hides or skins, resulting in a loosening of the hair or wool and some dissolving out of skin protein.
The hair or wool was then scraped off with primitive blunt stone or wooden scrapers and fat or meat still adhering to the flesh side was removed in a similar manner. Tanning, the conversion of pelt into leather, was done by dusting the rawstock with ground up bark other organic matter and placing them in shallow pits or vats of tannin solution.
Further additions of ground bark, were made from time to time until the tannin solution had penetrated right through the skin structure, taking up to two years for very thick hides.
The leather was then hung up for several days in open sheds. The dressing of the leather involved paring or shaving it to a level thickness, colouring, treatment with oils and greases, drying and final treatment of the grain surface with waxes, proteins such as blood and egg albumins, and shellac to produce attractive surface finishes.
During the middle ages leather was used for all kinds of purposes such as: footwear, clothes, leather bags, cases and trunks, nature leather bottles, saddlery and harness, for the upholstery of chairs, and couches, book binding and military uses. It was also used to decorate coaches, sedan chairs and walls.
Many leather articles have been recovered from the Mary Rose, a Tudor vessel which sank in 1545.
The majority of the leather was tanned with oak bark but soft clothing, gloving and footwear leathers were tanned with alum, oil, and combinations of these two materials.
With the discovery and introduction of basic chemicals like lime and sulphuric acid, tanners gradually abandoned their traditional methods and leather production slowly became a chemically based series of processes. Sir Humphrey Davy, the inventor of the miner’s safety lamp, investigated some of these processes.
The growth of industrialisation in the 18th and 19th centuries created a demand for many new kinds of leathers, eg belting leathers to drive the machines being introduced into industry, special leathers for use in looms in the textile industry, leathers for use as diaphragms and washers, nature leathers for use in transport and for furniture upholstery.
At the end of the nineteenth century, the invention of the motor car, modern roads, new ranges of coal tar dyestuffs, the demand for softer, lightweight footwear with a fashionable appearance, and a general rise in the standard of living created a demand for soft, supple, colourful leather.
The traditional vegetable tanned leather was too hard and thick for these requirements and thus, the use of the salts of the metal chromium was adopted and chrome tanning became the tannage for modern footwear and fashion leathers. It produces soft, supple, beautiful and fine leathers, reflecting the way we live.
The Worshipful Company of Leather sellers
The Worshipful Company of Leathersellers supervised the control of the quality of mediaeval leather produced in the City of London. They received their first Chapter of Incorporation in 1444 from King Henry VI, having been granted articles for the regulation of their craft during the first Mayoralty of Richard Whittington in 1398.
Through the centuries the Company has played an important role in the nature leather industry, particularly in the field of technical education. The Company founded a technical college in Bermondsey in 1909 and in 1978 donated £500,000 for the erection of The National Leathersellers Centre at University College Northampton.
The Company continues to maintain close links with the college and the industry as a whole and has recently been involved with the development of new premises for the Leather Conservation Centre, also located on the University College Northampton site.
See the history tab for a fascinating timeline tracing the history of leather
Guidelines for the care of waterlogged archaeological leather (English Heritage)
Historical artefacts tell us a story about our past – they have lived the story and their markings and detail can help tell us that in a way no other person can.
Many artefacts are restored using traditional techniques at the Leather Conservation Centre in Northampton, where they are able to restore a whole host of different types of nature leather.