Why Shell Cordovan is Expensive?

Sometimes, Hoa Sa will receive some requests for special leather watch straps, which must last for years but still keep the form and not going to be “out of trend”. The Shell Cordovan or in Vietnam known as “horse butt” leather will often be suggested as an excellent choice – a smooth, durable and trendy material.

Hoa Sa Handmade Shell Cordovan Watch Straps
Hoa Sa Handmade Shell Cordovan Watch Straps

If you have known and used leather watch straps like cowhide, alligator or ostrich, lizard leather, this may sound unbelievable at first. But let’s discover with Hoa Sa why Shell Cordovan leather is valuated to be one of the best leathers in the world.

What is Shell Cordovan leather?

Shell Cordovan or Cordovan is the name of a very special line of leather derived from the hindquarters’ horsehide, or more specifically, from the rear portion of the horse – horse butt. This is the area of skin that is made up of living tissue fibers including collagen and elastin, giving it the characteristic of thick, dense pores (somewhat makes Cordovan skin more resistant to water than other leather types) and incredibly smooth surface.

The name “Cordovan” comes from the Spanish city of Córdoba which means “from Córdoba”. For a long time, Cordoba was the most famous tanning center of the Moor Empire.

One interesting fact is that the first original material used to make the Shell Cordovan was taken from goat skin rather than horses (something that was not used until the 19th century to make Cordovan leather).

History of the Cordovan leather

As early as 2200 BC, humans have known to use animal skins for production and in daily life. However, the usage of horse leather was first recorded around the 7th century AD from the land of the Visigoths and later the Moors from Spain. Skilled craftsmen at that time knew how to exploit horse skins to make items such as armor, shields, chests. And since then, the Spanish city of Cordoba has been known as the most famous tanning place in the world at that time. Even today, artisans in the Cordoba region maintain the tradition of tanning the Shell Cordovan.

Sunset at Cordoba - Source: Helle Hollis
Sunset at Cordoba – Source: Helle Hollis

With a reputation for quality, beauty and durability, Shell Cordovan leather has been noticed by the Spanish Royal Family and the preference of the elite stage of life become the base for Shell Cordovan to build its own reputation. Today, people still believe Shell Cordovan leather is one of the materials that used by royal families.

However, before horsehide was used in tanning, most Cordovan leather was tanned from goatskins. And it was not until the 19th century that Cordovan was directly associated with the horse’s skin and became known as the horse’s butt leather – Shell Cordovan as it is today. In the middle of this century, tanners from Germany and the Netherlands immigrated to America with the trade of “spiegel wahre” which known as “the mirror”. This is a metaphor for the Cordovan leather products that can be polished to a shinning mirror.

Hoa Sa Handmade Shell Cordovan in Burgundy

Despite its glossy appearance and high aesthetics, at that time, Shell Cordovan leather was still appreciated only for its high application and durability. This is why in the late 19th and early 20th centuries; they only used it to make razors used in barbershops. Later in the early 20th century, when tanning techniques were improved to make leather softer, then the use of Shell Cordovan leather in the production of shoes, gloves and gloves was applied.

How is Cordovan leather tanned?

Tanning Shell Cordovan is complex and one of the most intensive processes – it takes bout six to ten months in total and more than a hundred steps are carried out for each hide. Briefly explained: tanning is a process that helps leather achieve two basic things: first, to stop the leather from naturally decomposing, and second, to give the leather the distinctive properties that make it possible to make final products.

Horween Tanning Factory - Source: Horween
Horween Tanning Factory – Source: Horween

The first step is salting the horse skin. Salt is used to preserve leather during transportation. The leather is then cut into pieces by hand and selected the best parts for the tanning process.

Next, the fur on the surface will be removed by chemical. This process will remove all fat as well as protein from the piece of leather so as not to encounter any unwanted elements in the tanning process.

The pieces of leather are then taken to the tannery, where contain large tanneries filled with tanning liquid. Liquid used in the Shell Cordovan tanning process typically include substances of plant origin such as chestnuts, quebracho bark, and certain plant resins. This process is known as “vegetable tanning”.

Horween Tanning Factory - Source: Horween
Horween Tanning Factory – Source: Horween

During the tanning process, the leather will be attached to the frames and stirred continuously so that the tanning liquid does not stay in one place, therefore; the leather will be tanned evenly. After thirty days, the pieces will be removed from the tanner and scraped to reveal the underlying layer.

The tanning process is then repeated starting with the return of the hide to the tanner tank for the tanning liquid to absorb to the patch. After going through such process for twice with more than 60 days in tanning liquid, the piece of leather will go through more than 4 months with many subsequent stages to be able to produce the final product. The leather pieces will be then hand-polished and most importantly, they will spend on the rest time for the leather.

The Process of Crafting Shell Cordovan Pieces of Leather - Source: Horween
The Process of Crafting Shell Cordovan Pieces of Leather – Source: Horween

Finally, after about 6 to 10 months of work, the Shell Cordovan hides are finally ready to be shipped to the leather manufacturers. And this is the time when we can clearly see the special features of the Horsehide Shell Cordovan appear in full.

Shell Cordovan Features

Durability and water resistance

This is a leather of choice if you are looking for a leather product that requires durability. The fact that the pores of this kind of leather are so dense that it would improve the natural ability to resist water. However, it is still important to note that it does not mean Shell Cordovan leather is waterproof, it is just more effective than other leathers, hence, you still need to avoid letting it to have any contact with water overall.

Hoa Sa Handmade Shell Cordovan in Black
Hoa Sa Handmade Shell Cordovan in Black With Better Ability to Resist Water

Besides, Shell Cordovan leather is unlikely to scratch, tear or break like most other leathers on the market such as calfskin. This is the reason why, in addition to being used to make watch straps, the Shell leather is also a luxurious material for making western shoes, wallets or boots used in workwear.

Unable to be creased

If you have ever owned a leather product, you will easily notice that leather lines often crease. The appearance of wrinkles on leather products will lead to the skin cracking over time and this is an inevitable fact, no matter how well you take care of it.

Hoa Sa Handmade Shell Cordovan Watch Strap in Burgundy

However, Cordovan leather has an extremely unique feature, that is, it does not crease and crack like other leather types. This property gives durability to products made from Shell Cordovan, which means they will last for longer time without creasing or cracking, in comparision to similar products made from different materials.

Glossy and Shine

Shell Cordovan leather with its tough texture, small pores, and more than 6 months tanning process with more than 100 steps has resulted in a finished product with a natural smooth, soft, and shiny finish. If the Alligator have always been famous for their beautiful veins, Shell Cordovan always brings a distinctive elegance and shine.

Hoa Sa handmade Shell Cordovan in Brown
Hoa Sa Handmade Shell Cordovan Watch Strap in Brown

Why is Shell Cordovan leather so expensive?

As mentioned above, Shell Cordovan was used by the Royal families of Spain, along with the fact that the product line always offers exclusive quality making owning a product crafted from it worthier than ever and not only in terms of cost of production but also in the time making it and how it is made.

In most other types of tanning leather such as Alligator, Cowhide or Calfskin, the leathers are usually taken from the whole animal; however, Shell Cordovan is only taken from the hindquarter of the horse. Therefore, a horse will bring less material than a cow and lead to limited supply in the market.

Hoa Sa Handmade Shell Cordovan Watch Strap in Dark Brown

In addition, Shell Cordovan leather requires an extremely sophisticated tanning process and takes a long time – from 6 to 10 months to produce, compares with industrial cowhide that normally takes 24 to 36 hours for the longest time only. And the manual tanning techniques requires very high level of skill. So far, there are only a few suppliers in the world to have ability to produce this premium Shell Cordovan leather.

Hoa Sa Shell Cordovan leather watch Strap

Hoa Sa’s Shell Cordovan leather watch straps are completely handcrafted using traditional techniques, ensuring the best quality products when reaching customers. Each set of Shell Cordovan leather watch straps is made with meticulousity and carefully hand-stitched using the Saddle Stitch technique from skilled artisans. In addition to adding strength and longevity to the strap, the Saddle Stitch somehow added a classic beauty to the watch as well.

Custom Hoa Sa Handmade Shell Cordovan Watch Strap
Custom Hoa Sa Handmade Shell Cordovan Watch Strap

Shell Cordovan leather has long been a symbol of luxury, shiny and elegance. Crafted from the hindquarter of the horse, Shell Cordovan is known for its toughness, shine, smoothy and durability. The Shell Cordovan leather watch strap is sure to be a great companion to any watch in your collection – whether it’s an expensive luxury Rolex or a minimalist everyday Nomos.

Hoa Sa Handmade Shell Cordovan Watch Strap for Nomos

Whether your style is Sartorial elegant with classic suits or simply everyday wear with jeans and t-shirts, Shell Cordovan leather watch straps will always be the perfect choice that can meet all requirements. Let upgrade your style with the exceptional quality and timeless beauty of Shell Cordovan leather watch straps from Hoa Sa.

Hoa Sa Handmade Shell Cordovan Watch Strap
Hoa Sa Handmade Shell Cordovan Watch Strap for Seiko
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