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4 Must-Have Products Made by Vegetable Leather Tanning

The production techniques that produce genuine leather have been developed and improved over many centuries. And while chrome-tanning dominates the market today because it is a cheaper and faster way to produce leather goods, the old method of vegetable tanning is also used. In fact, vegetable-tanned leather is still a highly sought-after material. 

The master leatherworkers of MANCINI use time-tested tanning methods and delicate tooling to make elegant and durable leather goods. We’ll give you a glimpse into the vegetable tanning process and showcase some vegetable-tanned leather products we’re proud to have made!


person knitting brown leather textile

What is Vegetable Tanning?

Tanning is the process of transforming animal hides into leather. Vegetable tanning involves the use of natural vegetable tannins in the process, which are yellow or brown organic substances found in bark, gall, and various plant tissues. Tannins are also found in wine, but vegetable tannins for leather are derived from tree bark, leaves, and roots, such as:

  • Birch
  • Catechu
  • Chestnut
  • Mimosa
  • Oak
  • Willow


The tannins alter the protein structure of the animal hide, ultimately preserving, strengthening, and colouring it. The vegetable tanning process has a six-step process:



The hides are treated with salt to prevent bacterial growth. 



The hides are submerged into a liming pit to remove hair.



The hides are soaked in another solution to lower their pH level. 



The hides are soaked in a tannin solution to dehydrate them, so that they soften. This part of the process takes 30-60 days, and the hides are moved from drum to drum at different times.  



The hides are laid out to dry for several days.



The hides go through a process of oiling, stretching, trimming, and measuring. Other finishing touches will be applied based on the intended use of the hide.


Different Types of Tanning Processes

Tanning processes vary. For instance, vegetable tanning takes 30-60 days to produce by hand, while chrome tanning takes only a day, as it’s a chemical-based process that relies on machines for production. 

There are other differences between vegetable-tanned and chrome-tanned leather, including:

  • Vegetable-tanned leather softens over time, developing a patina. Chrome-tanned leather cracks and peels after a few years and it’s a toxic process for the workers. 
  • Veg tan leather has an earthy scent, while chrome-tanned leather doesn’t have a scent.

The special properties of vegetable tanned leather make it a favorite among our customers, which is why we have provided a glimpse into the tanning process.


brown-leather-crossbody bag with eyeglasses


Is Vegetable-Tanned Leather Real Leather?

Yes, vegetable-tanned leather is real leather. People may confuse it with vegan leather, which is not real leather. Vegan leather is an alternative made from plant and plastic-based materials, including cactus, cork, and PVC. 


How Can You Tell if You Have Veg Tan Leather?

Makers of leather can identify their leather by burning a small piece of it or by boiling a sample in hot water. When burned, vegetable-tanned leather has a wide smoke pattern, a strikingly orange flame, and doesn’t have much of an odour. In boiled water, veg tan will shrivel up.

Unfortunately, buyers of leather must content themselves by checking the leather item’s tag (if there is one), since there isn’t a quick and easy way for them to identify the type of leather without damaging the actual product. 


What is Vegetable Tanned Leather Used for?

Veg tan leather is used for a variety of products, including saddles, rifle slings, leather belts, bags, and briefcases.


deluxe unisex deluxe unisex inside


This deluxe unisex bag is the happy medium between a wallet and backpack. You can safely store your credit cards and money in the RFID wave-blocking pocket while carrying other small items with you, such as keys, writing tools, and your phone, depending on the model size. 

This handy bag can be held or slung over the shoulder for convenience. It’s made from top grain semi-vegetable tanned drum dyed polished leather and is featured in the Colombian collection.


backpack-c5backpack c5 open


Head to school, the office, or on vacation with this compact semi-vegetable tanned backpack. With its supple top grain cowhide, this backpack has two zippered side pockets, a main compartment, and a front compartment with an organizer and RFID wave-blocking technology. It’s a trendy casual-chic bag that fits 15.6” laptops, as well as tablets. There’s plenty of room to fit in notebooks, textbooks and novels. It evenly distributes the weight across the shoulders.


briefcase briefcase open


Part of the new Beverly Hills line, this triple compartment briefcase exudes classic elegance with its full grain vegetable-tanned leather. With a roomy compartment for a tablet or laptop that measures 15.6” and an organizer, you won’t need to search for writing implements or worry about your electronics being damaged.

Leather briefcases need some form of data protection today, which is why we include them in  our veg tan products! An RFID wave-blocking pocket will protect your data from thieves. It also allows for a seamless shift from the hand to the shoulder with sturdy handles and a non-slip detachable strap.


black-briefcaseblack briefcase open


This double compartment drum dyed and semi-vegetable tanned briefcase has a more traditional look. Part of the Colombian collection, the polished cowhide leather gives it a cashmere feel. On the practical side, the briefcase fits 15.6” laptops or a tablet and features an organizer. There is also a pocket for folders and loose papers in addition to a rear pocket for notebooks. It comes with an attach-a-bag strap to secure it to your luggage when travelling.

Many of our customers will notice that our briefcases are made with similar features. This is because we honor tradition and know what works. If it isn’t broken, why fix it?


Find More Handcrafted Vegetable Tanned Leather Products

As you browse our luxurious leather products, remember that all orders over $100.00, excluding shipping and taxes, receive free ground shipping. 

Contact us today if you have questions!