Russian Leather

For many centuries, Russia had been exporting furs, timber, and tar. Russian leather was also one of the major imports since 17th century.

Russian leather is a fine hard-wearing cow’s leather. It’s flexible, water-resistant, insect repellent and very durable.

Diamond cut hatching is one of the main characteristics of Russian leather that turned it into a luxury status item in the 17-18th centuries.

The production of Russian leather involved a meticulous three-step process of willow bark-tanning, oiling with birch bark oil and dyeing. The whole process could take several months! 

In 1973 in Mount Edgcumbe, southwest coast off England, a team of archaeologists and specialists discovered the remains of sank brigantine Die Frau Metta Catharina which set to sail from Saint Petersburg in 1786. Among other treasures, divers found Russian calf hides on the sank brigantine. Hides were surprisingly in good condition. 

With the support of Heritage Lottery Funding the leather preserved and now Russian leather could be found on a display of an exhibition in Mount Edgcumbe House (Cornwall, UK). 

Unfortunately, the original Russian leather making process was lost in the 1917 Revolution.

There were unsuccessful attempts made to replicate the unique process to create upholster furniture, footwear and belts. 

While some brands including Moynat and Hermès claimed that they re-created and re-invented the process of tanning and oiling to produce Russian leather, the original technique remains a secret. 

Chanel launched it’s sensual mysterious Cuir De Russie Parfum in 1927. The description of the perfume states: 

“Evocative of wild yet elegant world of Russia, this warm Oriental fragrance — first composed by Master Perfumer Ernest Beaux in 1927 — captivates with its sensual presence, expressing sumptuous leather and rich, exotic woods. Now, this rare composition is offered in a parfum; the most powerful, concentrated form of fragrance and the fullest expression of the perfumer’s art“. 

Chanel Beauty Expert is explaining: 

The name Cuir De Russie comes from the aroma left by the birch tar used by Russian soldiers to tan their boots: an enveloping, warm and sensual fragrance, which releases mysterious wafts of tobacco, hay and smoked wood“.


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