Ostrich Body Skins
Ostrich leather is an exotic leather, making it sought after for the skins unique quill pattern, that gives the leather a hill and valley or goose bump appearance. The bumps are formed by feather follicles that close into quills after the feathers are removed. These quills are clearly visible in a diamond shape that covers the centre area of the ostrich skin known as the “crown”. In total, about 55% of the skin is covered in quills, which include the crown, neck and belly areas. The smooth areas are from the skin located below the wings which is not covered in feathers. Ostrich leather is not split into layers and is a full grain leather.
The quality and the grading of the ostrich skin is often mistaken for being the same thing. The standard of quality of the ostrich leather that Cape Karoo produces will always remain the same, no matter the grade of the skin. All leather at Cape Karoo undergoes the same high standard of tanning, dyeing and finishing. The grade of skins will however differ, as this refers to the cutting yield of each individual ostrich skin and takes into consideration defects and the aesthetic appeal. The size of the panels of the final product is key – one can use a second grade skin and still be able to cut two perfectly blemish free small handbags from it, while a large handbag would probably require a grade one skin due to the fact that a larger blemish free area is needed to work with.
The skin defects or damages that influence the grade of each ostrich skin can be divided into two basic groups – defects acquired by the ostrich during its lifetime, and defects incurred during the processing and tanning of the leather. Due to the naturally free-range farming techniques applied in the rearing of ostriches, some damage is bound to be accrued during the bird’s lifetime.
Terminology of the ostrich body skin
The body skin consists of two major areas that are taken into consideration with grading. The Primary area or Crown is the main body of the skin that is covered with prominent quills, while the Secondary area consists of the belly area, the smooth area and the areas that stretch to the legs.
Neck: The neck of the ostrich is covered in small neck quills
Wing: Wing area of the ostrich
Belly: The slaughter line, divides the belly in 4 parts on the ostrich skins
Smooth: Area underneath the bird’s wings without quills
Groin: Groin area of the bird
Legs: Where the leg skins were cut from the body skin
The grading of the ostrich body skin
The grading of ostrich body skins take place by making use of two imaginary lines drawn through the width and the length of the crown or quilled area of the skin. This divides the skin into four quadrants. Each panel will be evaluated individually, and the final number of blemished quadrants or panels will determine the grade of the skin.
A Grade 1 skin only has visible blemishes on a single quadrant on the crown area of the ostrich skin. The secondary area of the skin is reasonably clean and all parts of the secondary skin area will be intact. Grade 1 skins are normally used in the creation of products that require big, blemish free panels. Due to availability and demand, a premium price will be paid for Grade I ostrich skins.
Two quadrants on the crown area of a Grade 2 skin will have visible blemishes present. The secondary areas will be reasonably clean and might not have all parts of the skin entirely intact. Leather items requiring medium sized panels are created using Grade 2 skins.
A Grade 3 skin has visible blemishes on three of the quadrants of the crown area and can have more visible damage on the secondary area. Not all parts of the secondary area of the skin might necessarily be intact. Shoes and boots are usually manufactured from Grade 3 skins, while wallets, purses and medium sized accessories can also be created.
The crown area of a Grade 4 skin will have a blemish free space as big as an A4 panel that can be moved around to fit on the crown and still be covered with quills. There will be blemishes present on the secondary skin area and all parts of it is not always intact. Grade 4 leather is suitable for belts, wallets and small leather products.
On a Grade 5 skin, you will be able to cut a blemish free area, covered with quills, as big as an A5 panel that you can move around on the crown area. Blemishes can be visible on the secondary area and the skin might have parts of the secondary area missing. Small leather goods like key chains, lipstick holders and pens are manufactured with Grade 5 skins.
Body skins with damage to such an extent that no A5 panel free of defects can be measured out on the crown area.
Ostrich Leg Skins
Ostrich leg skins have a characteristic metatarsal scale that distinguishes it very easily from the quilled body skin. This unique leather first gained popularity in the production of smaller or panelled handbags, wallets, belts and accessories. The past 15 years have seen ostrich leg leather gain ground in the luxury interior design market. Designers join different panels to create larger objects, or the panels are combined with ostrich feathers or other materials to create unique and fashionable pieces. The full ostrich leg skin measures approximately 80-100mm wide and 300-400 mm in length.
Terminology of the ostrich leg skin
Main body: The rectangular section with metatarsal scales are present in the centre. This section is approximately 250mm x 80mm.
Knee area: The wider part of the leg skin, identified by its natural folds.
The metatarsal scales: The scaled section on the front of the ostrich leg that is located between the knee and the foot area. This gives the leg skin its distinct character.
The grading of ostrich leg skins
The grading of ostrich leg skins only takes the rectangular main body of the leg skin into consideration.
The size of the main body of each leg skin varies according to its final grade.
The main body is 250mm x 80mm. In cases where the metatarsal scale area is longer than 250mm, the main body can be moved upwards or downwards to exclude defects. Grade 1 leg skins will be blemish and hole free in the selected metatarsal scale length of the main body area. The metatarsal scales will run down the middle of the main body and all parts of the leg skin will be in a whole and good condition.
The size of the main body must measure at least 200mm x 80mm, and upwards or downwards movement along the metatarsal scales is allowed in order to exclude defects. The entire measured area must be free of defects and holes, with all parts of the leg skin intact.
A Grade 3 skin has a main body area of at least 150mm x 80mm. The measured area may be moved upwards or downwards to exclude defects, as long as the selected area is devoid of blemishes and holes. A small part of the knee area or the bottom edge of the metatarsal scales may not be intact.
There must be a main body of 100mm x 80mm which can be moved upwards or downwards to exclude defects. The metatarsal scales may contain defects, but the main body of metatarsal scales must be free of defects and holes. A Grade 4 leg skin can only be half a leg skin or parts of the knee or metatarsal scales may not be completely whole.
Leg skins with damage to such an extent that no main body measuring a minimum of 100mm x 80mm free of defects can be selected