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How to Tell Bicast Leather from Real Leather

How to Tell Bicast Leather from Real Leather

Very briefly, bicast leather isn't genuine leather. However, it also cannot be called completely fake because it contains a small amount of real leather too. Sounds confusing? Don't worry. HomeQuicks explains the concept of bicast leather, and also provides tips to differentiate it from real leather.
Vibhav Gaonkar
Bicast Leather Conditioning
A lot of conditioners and maintenance kits are available in the market to maintain the sheen and finish of bicast leather. Regular application of these products ensures long life of bicast leather and keeps it looking fresh and new.

To know the properties of bicast leather, it's essential to know a bit about real leather. The process of making leather begins with separating the animal hide from its flesh. Then, this hide is prepared for further processing by unhairing, removing unwanted proteins and subcutaneous material, and other crucial procedures which avoid the hide from rotting quickly.

This raw hide is then tanned to convert it to a stable substance, which won't decompose or degrade. Chemicals like chromium are used to tan leather in order to avoid its putrefaction. In the final stage of crusting, the leather is converted into a finished, usable material suitable for several end applications. In this stage, the leather undergoes rehydrating, sammying, splitting, shaving, dyeing, whitening, softening, buffing, and several other procedures. This is how leather is made.

Then, you may ask what is bicast leather? To put it simply, bicast leather is a by-product obtained during the manufacture of leather. For those who want to know how to recognize bicast leather from real leather, click here.

Is Bicast Leather Real Leather?

To a certain extent yes, but it is not 100 percent real. In the process of making leather, the rawhide is split into several layers. The topmost or full-grain layers are considered the purest form of leather, whereas the lowermost ones are of inferior, low-grade quality. Bicast leather is the latter.

Once the full-grain ('A' grade) layer of the hide has been separated, what remains is a thick and fibrous part of the rawhide. This part (called drop split) is then split into two―middle split and flesh split. The flesh split is the most inferior grade leather. A type of leather popularly known as suede is composed from split leather, hence differs in texture and feel from real leather.

The middle split portion can be further divided into layers based upon its thickness. Therefore, bicast leather can either be made from the flesh split or some of the lowermost middle split layers which introduce differences in its quality.

The Process of Making Bicast Leather

A key rule to remember when talking about any form of leather is that the purer the leather, lesser is the required processing and vice versa. Likewise, bicast leather tending towards the inferior or lower end requires even more processing than full-grain leather. As bicast leather doesn't possess a leather like feel, it needs to be coated with a polyurethane (PU) sheet and is embossed with a grainy texture which makes it look like leather.

The recent improvements in technology make this product so flawless that an untrained eye would hardly notice any difference between genuine and bicast leather. However, there are certain aspects that would help recognize impure or inferior leather from genuine leather. The section below provides a few tips to help you tell bicast leather from genuine leather.

How to Tell Bicast from Real Leather

Although the aspects listed below help to recognize bicast leather, they can also be counted as pros and cons of bicast leather. Take a look!

Price can also work as a pro of bicast leather. Bicast leather products are priced very low as compared to genuine leather. In case you're visiting a furniture store, compare the price of different leather sofas or couches. If you find a considerable price difference, ask the vendor about it. The vendor would most likely respond saying that the quality of leather differs in both, thus the difference in price.

As bicast leather is a split or layered form of leather, it won't be as thick and bulky as real leather. Its texture would be more plastic-like and very shiny. Freshly produced bicast products generally possess a faint chemical odor unlike real leather goods that emit a typical pungent odor. As bicast leather is embossed with a grainy texture, its grains/pores are consistently spaced; whereas in case of pure leather, the pores are inconsistently spaced. Also, bicast leather won't feel as supple and breathable as real leather.

Unlike real leather, bicast leather is not prone to oxidation and won't develop a patina―thin layer of tarnish or oxidation―over time. It would not improve with age, but would actually crack and split when old. The cracking and splitting would result from the wearing of polyurethane, thus separating it from the layer of leather. Therefore, it can be concluded that bicast leather is less durable than real leather.

Fire Test
Try this test on bicast leather only if you're allowed to do so. Hold a tiny piece of bicast leather over a flame; it will catch fire and produce a suffocating, plastic-like smell (burning polyurethane). Genuine leather on the other hand won't instantly catch fire; however, once it does, it will burn slowly and produce a pungent odor.

If you are planning to buy a product/s made of real leather, beware of sellers selling bicast leather claiming it to be 100% pure leather.