The Samurai warrior lived by a code of honor, and trusted his life to his sword. The Samurai sword - the Katana - was his constant companion, and was a beautiful piece of workmanship - painstakingly made of high quality steel that was tempered with extreme care, and took several months to construct!
When you have a weapon of this high a grade, you will need the best to equip it further - and this is what the Japanese did. The hilts of the traditional katana were covered with shagreen - a form of raw, undyed leather - derived from stingrays.
Legend has it that the stingray leather was the only leather suitable for covering a katana hilt - it did not get slick even when drenched with the blood of the enemy!
Stingray are primitive animals - they have remained physically unchanged for the millions of years of years they have existed on earth. They have evolved tough, armored hides that are essentially small calcium granules grown over a skin substrate.
When the stingray hide is processed to leather by applying suitable chemicals that penetrate the armor - what you get is a beautiful stingray leather with its characteristic granular pattern.
Stingray Leather Products
Stingray hides are usually small in size - especially when compared to traditional leather sources like cow hides, or even compared to other exotic leather hides like alligator and ostrich.
As such, stingray leather lends itself well to products like wallets, belts, handbags and shoes. Very rarely will you find apparels like jackets created out of stingray leather.
Identifying Genuine Stingray Leather
Stingray leather has a unique granular pattern that makes it instantly recognizable. The hide is pretty supple and smooth to touch - despite the presence of granules that have the toughness of ceramic.
Stingray leather can be finished in two ways - one, which leaves the granules pretty much intact, and the two, where the granules are ground a bit to reveal the lighter color inner layers.
In the first finish, the leather and the granules will retain the color of the dye, and you will get a uniformly colored hide. In the second finish, the grinding will result in little spots on the surface. Also, the grinding can reveal larger spots in the area where the backbone would be - again, a unique pattern.
Stingray Leather - The Myth of the Eye
There is a ‘myth of the eye’ associated with stingray leather - that the grinding and finishing will reveal an eye-shaped pattern on hide, and many people mistakenly believe this to be the sign of genuine stingray leather. This is NOT true - no such pattern emerges after grinding the top surface.
Stingray Leather Wallet with the Eye” Pattern
However, most of the exotic leather suppliers that deal in stingray leather have recognized this myth, and most of them actually create this pattern on their products - just to keep the buyers satisfied!