Antique Leather - Vintage Leather

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When it comes to old leather the words "antique leather" and "patina" spring to mind. However, they are two different things.

The term "antique leather" usually applies either to furniture which is over 100 years old, or leather which has been given an antique look.

Antique leather due to the age

"Antique leather" can be described so because of its age. Objects are classed as antiques when they are about 100 years old. Rarely when 50 years old.

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Antique Leather due to age: Leather luggage, antique book cover, antique chairs, shoes, embossed folder, antique leather wallpaper.


Antique leather due to the optics

We also call it antique leather when it has an old leather look. Mostly, this term is used with Chesterfield furniture, desk tops and embossed chairs. In this case, it is not the age of the leather but its look that counts. However, the term "vintage leather" is widely used for the appearance of old leather.

The antique leather look is created by contrasting colours. For example, Pull Up leathers have a wax or oil coating that quickly builds up patina just through normal use.


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Antique Leather due to appearance: The rest are older Chesterfield sofas, but not old enough to classify as antique.


Leather patina

Patina appears when the leather changes due to ageing, but it is still attractive. A historic column with little cracks, or an old wooden ship with many signs of ageing can still be beautiful - like an old painting - even though they are damaged. It's the same with leather. A leather with patina doesn’t have to be 100 years old, it just needs to have the look of antique leather. In other words, showing signs of use which look to have aged well.

There are different types of patina formation, which can usually occur in combination:

  • Change in color: The change in color is manifested by various causes. Over time, dirt settles in the depths of the grain and darkens the depths of the grain. This is an effect that is also artificially created with antique leather to make the leather appear old and used with a beautiful patina. Another point of color change are the signs of use. The surface color wears away and the underlying color or leather is revealed, causing color changes. Even cracks in the leather due to aging can appear as a beautiful patina, even if the damage is already obvious.
  • Change in the degree of gloss: Matt leather has a rougher surface than shiny leather. The degree of gloss of pigmented leather is determined by the top coat, which is applied as the final phase of pigment finishing. Over time, this roughness will flatten out by filling up the indentations of the roughness with care products, sweat and dirt which makes the leather shinier.
  • Changes in the leather surface due to creases and waves: leather, when it has been reupholstered, is tighter on the surface than later on. With use, stress and movement of the leather, the fiber structure stretches over time and the leather becomes wavy or wrinkled.

In most cases, the soiling in the depths of the grain can be removed well with the COLOURLOCK Leather Cleaner and the COLOURLOCK Leather Cleaning Brush, and the degree of shine of the leather often becomes significantly duller again with thorough cleaning. Even color damage can be easily repaired as long as it has not damaged the substance of the leather too badly. When it comes to wrinkling and creases, it's not that easy. But you can also consult a saddler who is the right specialist if simple means don't help.


Comparison of old and new. The resulting patina is clearly visible: color change, change in gloss level, wrinkling.


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Nice patina from leather that has aged gracefully with patina on the left, new leather on the right, but it looks sterile in an old vehicle.


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Classic car leather seats with a beautiful patina despite the visible signs of use.


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Patina adds to the value of a classic car. Dirt and abrasions are not considered damages.




Upholstery leather: Even if the leather already has colour differences and ageing traces, it has a beautiful patina.



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In this case the leather is broken and no longer beautiful. Therefore, it is not considered patina.




Worn and brittle leather is better described as soiled and brittle, rather than with patina. However, the armrest has a residual patina.



Patination is the process of making leather look like old leather. This is usually achieved by applying a a semi-transparent darker hue on Chesterfield furniture. The leather is then called rub-off leather.

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Image 1 still doesn’t have a patina. - Image 2 has little patina. - Image 3 is intensively patinated.



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Different patinated antique leather or rub-off leather effects.



Today the leather can be bought with antique finish. Previously, furniture was partially coated with a dark colour, hence the term rub-off leather as it looks as if the colour has rubbed off.


Leather restoration

Antique leather with signs of age can be restored depending on its condition. In the case of high-quality and historical objects, one should turn to professionally qualified restorers. Experienced leather repair shops are the right contact for collector's items. The existing substance of the leather must be checked and it must be stabilized and optically enhanced as carefully as possible.


Before and after pictures of the restoration of a beautiful leather folder with use of COLOURLOCK Antique Finish.



Before and after pictures of use of COLOURLOCK Antique Finish.


Videos about the processing of antique leather

The patination of classic car leather in the leather workshop.

The post-patination of an antique folder.

The leather repair workshop: The patination of worn antique leather.

COLOURLOCK Antique Finish - COLOURLOCK Elephant Leather Preserver.

The refreshing of a thick aniline leather in the leather workshop by preserving the patina.

Additional information