What Is Leathered Stone?

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So, you know about polished stone — that high-gloss finish you can practically see your own reflection in. And we’ve talked about the honed finish, which is matte and silky-smooth. But, you may have heard mention of leathered stone while going through your favorite home design websites, or maybe you’ve even seen it when looking at slabs at your local provider. So, what’s the deal with this finish, and why should you consider it?

Like a honed stone, leathered stone isn’t glossy or polished and has little to no shine. However, this is largely where the similarities stop. While honed stone is smooth, leathered stone has a textured, pebbly surface with little pits and fissures — sort of like the surface of a fine piece of leather. The texture will vary from piece to piece, and some stones will have a much more pronounced leathered finish than others. Regardless, the overall effect is warm and inviting, chic but still a bit rustic. It also further enhances the fact that your slab is a unique, natural material and that its beauty lies in its variations.

Aesthetics aside, there are other reasons you might choose a leathered stone over a honed stone. Although many homeowners like the matte look of a honed finish, it does have a tendency to “flatten” the color of the stone and make it more difficult for any of the stone’s more subtle color variations to show through. This can sometimes be mitigated with certain types of sealants, but for the most part, a honed finish will give you a more one-dimensional appearance. That’s not a bad thing — it’s just one kind of look and might not be what you’re going for.

Leathered stones aren’t reflective and shiny like a polished finished, but it also has more depth than a honed finish. It’s kind of a nice middle ground: there’s just enough texture and sheen to show off all the stone’s natural characteristics without having the higher maintenance of a mirror-finish. These qualities also mean that the stone will show staining, scratches, smudges and fingerprints less. The latter two are a particular issue with both polished and honed finishes: if you can’t handle having a fingerprint in sight, leathered might just be the look for you!

Leathered stone also has the advantage over honed in that the former closes the stone’s natural pores, whereas the latter leaves the pores more exposed. Even though stones like granite are less prone to staining and water damage, the stone still does have natural pores and it can be damaged over time if water, cleaners, food particles, and other debris get stuck in these openings. So, both honed and polished stones will need to be sealed more often to help prevent this vulnerability from hurting the overall longevity of your stone. That’s not to say that leathered stone never needs to be sealed — it still does — but the finish tends to seal the pores, making it less susceptible to damage over time. The one downside is that because the leathered finish causes some natural pits and fissures in the stone, it can be difficult to deep clean in that it can be challenging to get everything out of those crevices. For this reason, leathered stone might not be the best option in a busy kitchen or at least not where the major food prep is going on. However, it is a really great option for bathrooms, bar tops, fireplace covers, or to top special tables.

So, what kinds of stones can be leathered? Granite is the most popular, but quartzite and marble can also carry this technique well. Most people also prefer to leather very dark-colored stones, which shows off the texture best and creates the most luxe, high-end feel.

Figuring out which finish you want for your stone is an important decision, as it’ll affect how the characteristics of the stone are presented and can completely change the look and feel of your room. It’s important to remember, though, that there are no wrong choices here: it simply comes down to what kind of feel you’re going for. Are you considering a leathered finish for your next stone project? Let us know why in the comments!