In an age where mass production and digital transactions dominate, a handcrafted genuine leather wallet is a testament to craftsmanship and quality. From the selection of premium materials to the meticulous stitching and finishing, every step in creating a leather wallet speaks of the dedication and skill of its maker.

Understanding Leather Quality

Leather is a material revered for its durability and versatility. But not all leather is created equal. 

When handcrafting a genuine leather wallet, the type and quality of the leather used can significantly influence the final product.

Leather quality

Leather quality largely depends on the part of the animal's hide from which it's sourced and how it's treated during manufacturing. 

Full-grain leather: This is the highest quality leather from the outermost layer of the animal's hide. Full-grain leather retains the natural markings and grain patterns, giving each piece a unique character. It's known for its strength and ability to develop a rich patina over time, enhancing its aesthetic appeal.

Top-grain leather: This is the second-highest quality leather. This leather has had the very top layer sanded off to remove imperfections, resulting in a smoother and more uniform appearance. While not as durable as full-grain, top-grain leather offers excellent quality and longevity.

A brown woman's genuine leather wallet carefully crafted by Will Leather Goods next to a pair of glasses and sweater.

What is the best grade of leather for wallets?

Full-grain leather is widely regarded as the best leather for wallets. However, top-grain leather is just as good (and sometimes better) for wallets, depending on the needs of the design. 

Let’s look at some of the reasons why you’d choose a full-grain or top-grain leather wallet.

Full-grain leather

While full-grain leather is generally the best grade for wallets, it is also the most expensive. This is due to its high quality and the minimal processing it undergoes. However, there are several reasons why full-grain leather typically stands out:

  • Durability: Full-grain leather includes the entire grain layer without removing the surface. This means it retains all the fibrous strength and natural markings of the hide, making it the most durable type of leather. It resists wear and tear better than other types of leather that can last for decades with proper care.
  • Aesthetic appeal: Over time, full-grain leather develops a patina, a weathered, aged look that many find highly desirable. This patina adds character and uniqueness to each wallet, making it more attractive as it ages.
  • Breathability: Full-grain leather maintains its natural breathability since it has not been sanded or buffed to remove imperfections. This prevents moisture buildup inside the wallet, protecting the leather and its contents.
  • Feel: Full-grain leather tends to feel more natural and luxurious compared to other leather grades. Its texture, which can include unique imperfections like scars or blemishes, tells the story of the animal's life and adds to the wallet's uniqueness and charm.

Top-grain leather

While full-grain leather is the highest quality leather, there are times when top-grain leather is preferred for a wallet:

  • Soft and flexible: Top-grain leather is sanded and may have a finish coat applied, making it slightly thinner and more pliable than full-grain leather. This process results in a softer texture right from the start, making it easier to work with for wallet designs that require a flexible and smoother appearance.
  • Consistency in appearance: The sanding process that top-grain leather undergoes creates a more uniform surface, free from scars, marks, and other natural blemishes found in full-grain leather. This can be desirable in fashion or luxury wallets where a clean, consistent look is preferred over full-grain leather's rugged, varied appearance.
  • Resistant to stains and moisture: The finishing treatments applied to top-grain leather make it more resistant to stains and moisture than untreated full-grain leather. 
  • Cost-effective: Although still high-quality leather, top-grain leather is generally less expensive than full-grain leather because it is slightly less durable and considered the second-highest grade of leather. This can make it a more cost-effective option for consumers looking to balance quality and price.
  • Lighter weight and thickness: Top-grain leather (thinner than full-grain) results in a lighter wallet. This can be an advantage for those seeking a slim, lightweight wallet that doesn't feel bulky in the pocket.
  • Customization: The surface treatment of top-grain leather allows for a wider variety of finishes, textures, and colors. This makes it the best choice to offer various styles and colors of wallets.

We believe both grades of leather make an excellent choice for a wallet.

We use full-grain and top-grain leather for handcrafting our wallets, valuing their durability and natural beauty. We appreciate the individuality these leather grades bring and select the leather based on the design needs of our wallets.

How long does a genuine leather wallet last?

A leather wallet – especially those made from high-quality full-grain or top-grain leather – can last up to a decade or even longer with proper care and maintenance. Lower-grade genuine leather wallets may have a shorter lifespan but can still last several years.

However, the longevity of a leather wallet is influenced by various factors, such as the quality of the leather, how often it's used, and how well it's cared for. 

Regular cleaning to remove dirt and oils and occasional conditioning to prevent the leather from drying out can extend the life of a leather wallet. We recommend you clean your leather wallet with a leather solution every 6 months or whenever the leather feels dry.

Over time, these maintenance efforts contribute to the wallet's unique character and enhance its durability.

What type of leather wallet gets better with age?

A wallet made from full-grain leather is known to get better with age, becoming softer and more attractive. This type of leather develops a patina over time – a glossy sheen that enhances its aesthetic appeal. 

While full-grain leather is particularly prized for its aging qualities, other high-quality leathers like top-grain also age well (though they may not develop as pronounced a patina). 

Vegetable-tanned leather, another premium option, is also known for aging beautifully and developing a rich patina similar to full-grain leather. 

The choice between these types of leather may come down to personal preference and the specific characteristics you value in a wallet. This is why we offer a variety of handcrafted genuine leather wallets for men and women at Will Leather Goods – from vegetable-tanned full-grain leather to vegetable-tanned top-grain leather.

Craftsmanship and Techniques

Several genuine leather wallets for various sizes and colors by Will Leather Goods on a table.

Creating a genuine leather wallet is an art that requires skill, precision, and a deep understanding of the material. 

The Handcrafting Process

Crafting a wallet involves several steps, each requiring meticulous attention to detail. Here’s how we do it at Will Leather Goods

  • Once the leather is selected, it's cut into the desired pattern. This stage sets the foundation for the wallet's final size and shape.
  • Next comes the skiving process, where the leather is thinned or shaved for layering pieces, a crucial step in avoiding bulk when creating pockets for the wallets. This step ensures the wallet remains slim and easy to carry even when filled with cards and cash.
  • The cut pieces are then hand-tooled, stitched, and woven together. Hand tooling is an intricate process that involves carving designs into the leather, adding depth and character to the wallet. Stitching holds the pieces together, while weaving can add a distinctive aesthetic touch to the design.
  • Finally, the wallet is finished with burnishing techniques, which smooth and seal the edges to give it a polished look and increase its durability.

Will Leather Goods artisans skillfully hand-tool and weave our leathers, creating intricate patterns and textures. This level of craftsmanship ensures that each wallet is not just a functional item but a piece of art that reflects our commitment to quality and attention to detail.

Custom and Unique Features

One of the defining aspects of a handmade genuine leather wallet is the ability to add custom features. This could include personalization options like monograms, selecting from various colors, or picking a women’s or men’s leather wallet design that truly reflects your personality and style.

For example, we offer free embossing on all of our leather wallets. You can choose up to 3 letters and a small or large font size for the embossing. This personalized element not only adds aesthetic appeal but also increases the sentimental value of the wallet, making it a perfect gift for someone special.

The Lasting Value of a Handcrafted Leather Wallet

A brown leather walled by Will Leather Goods next to a passport, money, and drink on a table.

Opting for a leather wallet means choosing a piece that grows more beautiful with age, embodying sustainability, and carrying forward a legacy of craftsmanship. 

At Will Leather Goods, we invite you to experience the richness of a genuine leather wallet, personalized to your taste and crafted with care to accompany you for years to come.