Patina is kind of an obsession for leather enthusiasts.
We love to recieve it, see it, and show it off. It also makes for fantastic stories—like the time you went trekking up canyons and lost your keys—which you had to search for for hours!
For the leather novice, patina is a foreign term. Those who are unfamiliar with its meaning don’t quite understand why we’re so fascinated by it.
At Popov Leather, we’re big on well-loved leather wallets:
My wallet has a scratch from falling to the stage off my keyboard during a jazz trio concert or a smudge from being rubbed against the metal seats at a ballgame. It has been in the sun on the coast of Mexico once, and spends time up against the purple pen in my pocket. Maybe it looks more like me as a result.
Our love for aging leather stems from the unique story it tells about its owner. Its tan, scars, and stains serve as a reminder of both ordinary and extraordinary days.
Table of Contents
What Is Patina?
Patina is the beautiful sheen that develops over time on leather. It forms when your wallet is exposed to natural elements, like humidity, wind, grime, and skin oils.
As your wallet ages, it develops a glossy finish that varies depending on the type of leather used in your wallet’s manufacturing. The leather patina is evidence of high-quality leather, such as the full-grain Horween used to make Popov wallets.
Why Do People Want Leather Patina?
Leather patina is popular because it shows your wallet has been exposed to everyday life, and through that comes a uniqueness that cannot be duplicated in a factory.
Natural marks from being handled or simply being part of your environment show you’ve spent time with your wallet, and you know it well.
The colors darken to tell the story of where your wallet’s been. As you use your wallet, it becomes more beautiful—taking on a personality of its own. Think of it like that long-time friend—your friendship just gets better as you go through life’s ups and downs.
I live an active life, in the outdoors and traveling the world. My wallet earned it's scars falling through the rocks in the mountains outside of Valencia Spain...getting dropped and kicked in the streets of Buenos Aires...briefly getting lost on the swamps of the Everglades...but most of the scars come from my dog, when I have him retrieve the wallet from my bedside table because I don't want to go get it myself.
How Does Leather Patina Develop?
Leather patina develops after being exposed to the elements or after frequent handling. Depending on the materials used, each person's wallet develops patina in its own unique way.
For example, vegetable-tanned leather darkens and forms a glossy sheen with exposure to light and oils from your skin. Over time this can continue, leaving your wallet looking more and more beautiful with every use.
No two wallets develop a leather patina in the same way. However, there are a few tricks to get your patina faster:
- Make sure your leather is full-grain because it will develop the best patina over time.
- Carry it in the same pocket as your car keys or coins.
- Store it in your back pocket, so it gets a lot of use and has sweat worked into its pores. With time and exposure to the environment, it will darken nicely.
- Use it more often. Don’t keep your wallet in your pocket for too long or it will mess up its appearance. Aging is a natural process that will happen with time, so just go about your life while the magic happens!
- Take advantage of the elements—such as sun and rain—so natural chemicals can start forming on the surface of the leather.
Which Leather Shows the Best Patina?
There are two types of leather; full grain and top grain leather. Specifically, full-grain leather is the highest quality with a beautiful, natural look that develops a patina quickly. On the other hand, top grain leather can also develop patina but takes longer.
How fast or well leather develops patina depends on its treatment process. For instance, vegetable-tanned leather is the best for patina, while chrome-tanned leather will never look old.
The difference arises because vegetable-tanned leather is treated with plant-based oils, whereas chrome-tanned leather is treated with chemicals. Consequently, the process makes vegetable-tanned leather more natural and receptive to the environment, giving you that sought-after patina quickly.
The best leather for showing patina is vegetable-tanned full-grain leathers such as cowhide, bovine leather, or oiled bull hide.
These leathers have a thicker grain structure, allowing them to age well. They also include more natural oils and waxes, which creates a glossy patina over time.
The following table shows a comparison of the different types of leather and how they show patina:
What Types of Leather Develop Patina?
|Type of Leather||Develops Patina|
Natural vegetable-tanned full-grain leather
Full-grain leather with dyes or pigments
Top grain leather
Will Patina Affect Quality of Leather?
No—at least not in a bad way.
Leather patina indicates that you’ve had your product for a while and have gotten a lot of use out of it. It’s how you show off your wallet to others, and let them know what kind of adventures it’s seen!
It does not affect the quality or longevity of your wallet. If anything, it’s simply proof that you’ve bought a high-quality item.
However, some people do prefer their wallets to remain new-looking. If this sounds like you, here's how you can slow down the aging process: clean and condition your wallet before using a balm to seal in the moisture.
Use Mild Cleaners
Cleaning leather wallets slows down the aging process by removing dirt and grime, making them look brighter.
Any high-quality cleaner should do the trick. One that has surfactant is best, but a solution with neutral pH can work as well. Never use household cleaners—they’re too sticky and will permanently destroy the texture of your wallet.
The Popov Leather Scrub has natural ingredients and is designed to clean all leather finishes. It:
- Gently cleanses
- Leaves no residue
- Prevents the formation of mold and mildew
Leather conditioners are designed to maintain your leather in good shape. They strengthen the fibers while keeping them supple, soft, and subtle looking.
You can even get scented conditioners that make your wallet smell nice. Be careful not to overdo it; only use a small amount until your wallet absorbs it entirely.
The Popov Leather Balm is a natural, semi-solid conditioning compound that’s easy to use. It works for all types of leather, giving it:
- A beautiful shine
- Superior waterproofing
- Long-lasting protection against the elements
Seal the Moisture
Cleaning and conditioning will moisturize your leather wallet. A protectant seals the moisture in the material and keeps it soft and supple for longer. The Popov Leather Balm is a good choice for this purpose.
Other Ways to Slow Down the Ageing Process
Follow these tips to slow down the development of leather patina for a longer-lasting wallet:
- Keep your wallet out of your back pocket. It will be subjugated to a great deal of pressure, which wears out the fibers faster.
- Don't store it in a leather bag with other leather goods or pieces, as they can rub off their color onto your wallet over time.
- Keep your wallet clean and conditioned every once in a while.
- Do not stick anything sharp or hard into your wallet; such as pens, keys, knives, etc. These items may create tearing and scarring on the leather's surface.
Leather That’s as Unique as You
The true joy of owning leather products is that they become an extension of you. Firstly as you break in your wallet, you begin to write a story.
Moreover, you can have this experience with various items from our quality leather collections. For instance, check out these notebook covers, belts, and watch straps that can become precious and invaluable companions on your journey through life.