Leather is a luxurious material that has been used for centuries to create beautiful products. It is strong, durable, and has international appeal. In this guide, we will take a look at the 10 most expensive leather types in the world.
We will explore facts about leather, where they come from, how they are made, and what makes them special. If you are interested in learning more about leather this is the guide for you!
You might notice that the leathers in this guide tend to get less ethical and less legal as this list goes on! We support animal conservation and sustainability and are not supporting the poaching or slaughter of innocent or endangered wild animals. Visit WWF (World Wildlife Fund) to learn more about their work conserving threatened wildlife and wild places to sustain life on earth.
Here’s a list of most expensive leather in the world, ranked from least expensive to most expensive.
- 10 – Aniline Cowhide Leather (approximately $60 per square foot)
- 9 – Nappa Lambskin Leather (approximately $75 per square foot)
- 8 – Saffiano Calfskin Leather (approximately $100 per square foot)
- 7 – Ostrich Leather ($200 – $300 per square foot)
- 6 – Snake Leather (up to $600 per square foot)
- 5 – Alligator Leather ($500 – $1000 per square foot)
- 4 – Stingray Leather ($800 – $1000 per square foot)
- 3 – Crocodile Leather (up to $2000 per square foot)
- 2 – Shark Leather ($50 – $11000 per square foot)
- 1 – Elephant Leather ($5000 – $10000 per square foot)
10 – Aniline Cowhide Leather (Approximately $60 Per Square Foot)
Aniline leather is a type of full-grain cowhide. How is leather made? It’s tanned and dyed with aniline dye. This type of leather is most often used to make furniture. You can also find it in some luxury automobiles as interior fabric and accessories like purses or wallets. The most common color for this material is brown because it hides any blemishes or imperfections.
Aniline leather is the most affordable of all the types of leather on this list, and it is also one of the most common. If you are looking for good quality, affordable leather, this is a great option.
Aniline leather has a smooth, soft finish that makes it perfect for furniture and clothing. Manufacturers can dye this leather almost any color. That allows manufacturers to create unique pieces with ease!
Why Is Aniline Cowhide Leather So Expensive?
It’s not! It’s the cheapest one on this list and the commonest leather you can buy today.
9 – Nappa Leather (Approximately $75 Per Square Foot)
Nappa leather is a type of lambskin leather that is often used to make clothing, accessories, and upholstery. Leather experts appreciate Nappa for its softness and its durability. Nappa leather comes in a variety of colors, including black, brown, tan, white, and pink.
Nappa leather is most commonly used to make luxury fashion. Its soft texture makes it a good choice for coats, jackets, gloves, and other items that people wear close to the body.
Why Is It So Expensive?
Nappa leather is another more affordable type of leather. It is often a byproduct of the meat industry. Therefore, it is a more sustainable, ethical choice for those looking for high-quality expensive leathers. When Nappa leather costs more it’s often because of the tanning process and what type of finishing it has or because of the prestige of the designer or brand name.
8 – Saffiano Leather (Approximately $100 Per Square Foot)
Manufacturers treat saffiano leather with wax and pigments to create a crosshatch pattern. It’s a type of calfskin. It’s most commonly used for wallets, handbags, small accessories like keychains or cardholders. You may also see this material in some luxury automobiles.
Why Is Saffiano Leather So Expensive?
Sadly, when dairy cows have male calves farmers kill them to make veal and Saffiano leather. Saffiano leather is one of the most popular types of leather for luxury handbags. The treatment process makes it more expensive than other types of calfskin.
There is often also a mark-up for products made from this type of leather, based on the reputation of the brand or designer.
7 – Ostrich Leather (Approximately $200 – $300 Per Square Foot)
Ostrich leather comes from ostrich, which are large birds that predominantly live in Africa and Australia. It is most commonly used for high-end fashion accessories such as handbags, wallets, and shoes. Designers like ostrich leather because of its distinctive dotted pattern and longevity.
The most expensive ostrich leather is from South Africa, where it is often used to make luxury items such as watches and purses. The most expensive ostrich skin ever sold may have been made into a luxury handbag. Designer handbags made from this leather can fetch up to $100,000.
Why Is Ostrich Leather So Expensive?
Ostrich leather is expensive because it is rare and has a high demand. Farmers breed Ostriches for food and leather but not on a very large scale, so the availability of ostrich leather is in short supply. The soft and durable nature of ostrich skin makes it a favorite material for high-end products.
6 – Snake Leather (Approximately $600 Per Square Foot)
Snake leather (also called snakeskin) is most commonly used to make wallets, belts, shoes, and other accessories. It comes from snakes that thrive in the tropical regions of the world.
There are many different types of snake leather, but the most expensive is python skin. Python skin is known for its durability and unique pattern. Balenciaga had a pair of black python trainers for men and the Gucci brand set up a snake farm to capitalize on the value of this leather.
Why Is Snake Leather So Expensive?
Snake leather is expensive because it is rare and has a high demand in the fashion industry. There are only a few places in the world where snakes can be found and some legal restrictions on farming them, so there is less availability of snake leather. The durable and unique nature of snakeskin makes it a favorite material for luxury products.
5 – Alligator Leather (Approximately $500 – $1000 Per Square Foot)
Alligator leather is one of the most popular types of luxury leather. Despite its name, it comes from alligators and caimans and is known for its durability and softness. Crocodile leather has a separate entry on this list.
Per square foot, the typical cost of alligator leather is around $500, although it can cost up to $1000 per yard.
Alligator leather is most commonly used in the fashion industry for accessories such as bags and shoes. It has a distinctive pattern, with small scales that are equally spaced apart from each other. Designers think this makes it perfect for products like wallets or handbags where you want an eyecatching design.
The most expensive alligator leather can be found in China, where it is often used to make luxury items such as watches and purses. One alligator skin handbag can sell for as much as $55,000.
Why Is Alligator Leather So Expensive?
Alligator leather is expensive because it is rare and has a high demand. Hunters track and kill alligators for their skin, so the availability of alligator leather is in short supply. Additionally, alligator skin is very soft and durable, making it a popular choice for luxury items.
4 – Stingray Leather (Approximately $800 – $1000 Per Square Foot)
Stingray leather is another popular choice for luxury products. It usually comes from the stingrays that are found in the coastal waters of Asia, Africa, and Australia. It is known for its unique texture and appearance. Stingray leather is most commonly used to make wallets, belts, shoes, and other accessories.
Stingrays are a large group of rays that live in the ocean. They have a flat body with diamond-shaped markings on their backs that resemble diamonds or jewels when placed under light—a characteristic known as “diamond dusting.”
Stingray skin is popular with designers but also considered very difficult to work with by leathercrafters.
Why Is Stingray Leather So Expensive?
Stingray leather is expensive because it is rare and has a high demand. There are only a few places in the world where stingrays can be found, so the availability of stingray leather is limited. Some stingray farms do exist but they are considered difficult to manage ethically. Animal rights activists are also against the hunting of stingrays to make leather products because of perceived cruelty and conservation.
3 – Crocodile Leather (Approximately $2000 Per Square Foot)
Crocodile leather comes from crocodiles, which are large reptiles that live in the tropical regions of the world. It is most commonly used for high-end fashion accessories such as handbags, wallets, and shoes. Leather crafters admire crocodile leather for its distinctive pattern, durability and softness.
Crocodile skin is most commonly found in Australia where it’s used for luxury items such as watches, belts, and purses.
A white-gold adorned crocodile-skin Hermès handbag with diamond accents set a new auction record, selling for around $380,000 in Hong Kong.
Why Is Crocodile Leather So Expensive?
Farmers do breed crocodiles for their skin, but they are not farmed on a very large scale so the availability of crocodile leather is still low. The most expensive crocodile skins come from Australia where strict laws are regulating how many animals can be killed each year to ensure conservation efforts remain in place.
2 – Shark Leather (Approximately $50 – $11000 Per Square Foot)
Shark leather comes from sharks, which are large fish that live in oceans all over the world. It is most commonly used for high-end fashion accessories. Shark leather is known for its durability and softness.
Sharkskin is most commonly found in Australia where it’s used for luxury items such as watches and purses. Both Sharkskin and also sharkfin soup are banned in a lot of places!
Why Is Shark Leather So Expensive?
Sharks are most numerous in Australia, where strict laws regulate the number of animals that may be killed each year to guarantee conservation efforts. Shark leather is expensive because it’s rare and has a high demand in the fashion industry.
This is due to its unique appearance with small scales that make up an almost mosaic pattern when tanned correctly. Sadly, hunters kill some protected species of shark solely for their skin, making this one of the most controversial leathers on the market.
1 – Elephant Leather (Approximately $5000 – $10000 Per Square Foot)
Elephants are a protected species. However, shockingly, they are still hunted and killed. This is highly illegal and unethical.
Elephant leather is most commonly used to produce leather goods and folk medicine which has no proven efficacy at all. It comes from African or Asian elephants. There are many different types of elephant skin but the most expensive variety comes from elephants with tusks.
The illegal elephant skin trade has been linked to aggressive hunters from Myanmar who are motivated by money from Chinese clients. Ivory, hides, skin pieces and skin powder have all been seized by Chinese government officials seeking to stop the crime.
Why Is Elephant Leather So Expensive?
They are a protected species and trade in elephant leather is understandably extremely illegal.
That Concludes Our List of the 10 Most Expensive Leather Types in the World
Leather is most commonly made from cows, but there are many other animals with hides that manufacturers turn into leather. As you can see above most expensive leather comes from exotic and rare animals.
However, when it comes to where to buy leather that’s kinder to animals and the planet, there are lots of more ethical high-end options available.
For example, Stella McCartney has been making luxury vegan leather handbags for years. So, if you want to treat yourself to designer goods that don’t harm any animals there are plenty of options out there. Keep reading to learn more about the most expensive things in the world.