What is Horween Shell Cordovan Leather? Reversed?
Horween Shell Cordovan is one of the premier leather offerings at Craft and Lore. It comes with a lot of hype from dedicated fans and a hefty price tag, so we often get questions about it.
What is Horween Shell Cordovan?
Horween Shell Cordovan comes from Horween, a world famous tannery based in Chicago Illinois that has been in operation for over a hundred years. The term "shell" refers to a very specific type of leather that only comes in a round shape from the rump of a horse. The biggest a single shell can be is typically around 2.5 square feet. The hyper density of the leather is due to a membrane in that part of the horse. It is costly due to the high demand, long tanning times, and scarcity of horse hide.
At the beginning of Craft and Lore, we struggled to stock this hide because of how high the demand is. Our early customers might remember the quarterly or even bi-yearly shipment of shell we would receive and the hype that surrounded it. Shell will always be a scarce leather, but these days we are able to stock it a bit more often due to the high demand from our own customers allowing us to place larger orders with Horween. That said, if you want a piece of this extremely luxurious leather, hop on it while you can, as stock is always fluctuating, and long absences of the leather can still occur.
Is Shell Cordovan Durable?
Because of the density of the leather, it’s hard-wearing and ready to stand the test of time. The director at Horween tannery, Nick Horween, had this to say about the leather:
"A product made of shell cordovan will last multiple lifetimes. The best part of using shell cordovan in a wallet or watch strap is the natural rubbing and wear placed on the shell which starts developing an amazing patina that develops with each use. It is similar to having a fine wine that you can drink every day and keeps getting better.”
In our own experience, this statements stands true. Through the various wallets we have carried throughout the years that are made of shell cordovan, we have only had great experiences. The leather has always stood up, and developed a fine patina that makes you excited every time you pick it up.
Reversed or Proper Shell Cordovan?
Reversing shell cordovan is something we started doing in our early days due to the beautiful patina it creates, and because of the unique dye splatter and various markings on the inside of the shell that we wanted to show off on our wallets.
There’s a lot of variation in the color of reversed shell cordovan, since the tanner’s only concern was correct coloring on the proper side. For example, reversing black shell cordovan can result in a wide spectrum of greens and burgundy can give you a light pink or a dark red color when it is reversed.
Patina is the main reason for reversing. Patina is the process of a leather product changing in appearance with time and wear. Reversed shell makes a more rugged looking wallet, and will take in oils and suntan quickly. This results in a faster and more obvious patina.
Proper shell gives a more uniform and polished appearance to a wallet, and is great for a more dressy look. The darker proper shells will not show as much change overtime, while proper shell wallets made of natural and cognac will darker beautifully to a deep brown. The decision is up to you on which of these two suit your needs. We love reversed shell for its character, but realize that some people are looking for the luxurious polish of the proper side out shell wallet.
What's with the Horween Shell Cordovan Ink Stamp?
Another reason for reversing shell cordovan is showing off the Genuine Horween Shell ink stamp. Ink stamps are one per shell, and not always available on a wallet. Generally anyone ordering a reversed Shell Cordovan product really wants that ink stamp on full display, but the reality is that the ink stamp will wear away with time and patina. So don’t be too disappointed if your reversed shell cordovan product doesn’t include the stamp.
Caring For Shell Cordovan Product?
Maintenance on your Shell Cordovan products is relatively little to none. As for most wallets and watch straps, your natural skin oils will keep the leather well conditioned from regular use. The only product we suggest using on Shell Cordovan is Saphir Leather Polish. Saphir will provide a beautiful polish and keep your wallet looking great.
So if you’re ready for a lifetime wallet that gets finer with each day of use, shell cordovan just might be the best option. But let us be the first to warn you, once you get your hands on it, it’ll be hard to go back to anything else.