STINGRAY – GALUCHAT – SHAGREEN – PERL RAY
A UNIQUE MATERIAL
Stingray leather, also called shagreen or galuchat, is a material half way between the animal and the mineral and which comes from various families of stingrays. It is the bead-clad central part of the animal’s back that makes it so special. Dentine and enamel is what the beads are made of, the same material as our teeth, making it the hardest leather known.
Stingray hides are collected throughout south-east Asia, but they essentially come from Indonesia. They are the yield of a long established, non-industrial, food fishing tradition. Medical properties of the stingray skeleton and some of its internal organs make them sought after by the pharmaceutical industry. Hides for fine leather-crafts are thus a byproduct of this practice that leaves nothing to waste.
Once removed and in order to keep them from decay, the hides are impregnated with high quality coarse salt and brought as soon as possible to the tannery. At this stage, working fast will guarantee the best possible tanning results.
Before being tanned, the hides are separated by gender and size. Then, the still very rough beads are sanded down in order to level the hide and give it the “galuchat finish”. The back side is scraped to get rid of its excess of flesh and fat until the hide is not thicker than 1.5-2 mm. . This task will also allow to minimize the use of the water and coloring agents required in the next phase.
The tanning process consists in soaking the hides in wood caskets filled with a mix of pure water, chemicals and coloring agents that are sourced from renowned European partners. This stage can be repeated up to four times and, in our case, involves much larger amounts of coloring agents than for a standard tanning and take up to two weeks. We call this process “deep dyeing” as it reaches through to the core of both the leather and the beads. Once the tanner is pleased with the result no additional paint spraying is needed and the hides have acquired a rich and vivid color on both sides.
The finishing touch is brought mechanically with a cotton buffing wheel. Here, the skins acquire a semi-mat finish that is very natural to the eye and, thanks to the initial sanding, the beads gain an ever so slightly rounded shape and a very soft feel. At last, rating and classification of the hides can take place.
Close to a month passes from the day the hides were delivered to the tannery to achieve the unique quality required for our skin productions. Besides its quality, the entirely unique nature of the galuchat finish also lies in the fact that each batch (because of imperatives of weight, surface and cost the tannery will never work less than 100 hides per color), possesses a very slightly different tint from the next. Likewise, by the virtue of its beads configuration and texture, each hide is just as much unique.
What all our hides share is their suppleness, the richness of their color and the finished quality of their beads. These three attributes have allowed us to distinguish ourselves from others.
A UNIQUE KNOW-HOW
From its inception we understood that only impeccable quality would allow us to create products easily distinguishable from those of other manufacturers. This quality primarily depends upon the meticulous preparation, absolute respect in all their details of each and every phase of production.
Requiring a very specific skill, the hides are chosen according to the product they will cover. Our clients often ask us for patterns (mosaics or geometric shapes) on box lids, trays or game boards, which require millimetric precision in choosing the correct hides. The are picked according to their grain, their position, their tonality, much in the same manner a carpenter would prepare a work of marquetry. For each reference, and in order to save both time and material, there is a set of two or three die-cut punches. The shapes they produce are then hand-skived. Skiving is one of the most important step of production since the quality of a product’s finishings entirely depends on it and also requires a very specific know-how. Once skived, the skins can be pasted and assembled or sewn.
The edge to edge assembly of our bracelet and necklace leather strands is a work of precision. It is made one centimeter at a time and ends with a hand-sanding and final polishing that don’t leave anything to chance: every finished item is submitted to a quality control stage as scrupulous as it is meticulous and which allows us to have a much lower than average rate of returns. Whether it is on a bracelet, a necklace or a handbag, the quality of our tanning, cutting, skiving, stitching and overlapping techniques, stingray has never before been so well brought forward.
The joining of the leather strands of the bracelets and necklaces from edge to edge is an absolute precision work. Still, this success would not have been possible without the skills of our craftsmen. At every station, at every level of experience, they deliver their very best to achieve the quality that has made our name in an open working environment, where sharing is the main pivot. This, with an extremely low turnover as proof that this type of management is a key to both reaching and guaranteeing the best possible production quality over the long term, is the other success of our company.
A UNIQUE HISTORY
Although texts refer to its use in ancient Egypt and during the Chinese Han dynasty, the oldest artifacts using stingray skin are from 8th century Japan, with tanto and katana handles and sheaths as well as samurai armor decorations. At the time, the skins were not tanned and beads were not sanded, which provided a very good grip to the objects they covered. It was so rough that it was also long used as sandpaper by Japanese carpenters. It is still found in this aspect today in some sushi restaurants where it is used to grate wasabi.
After many tried, the first to successfully tan and dye stingray skin was Frenchman Jean-Claude Galluchat (with a double L), a Paris master-upholsterer, in the second half of the 18th century. His most famous customer for the jewelry boxes he covered with it was Madame de Pompadour, mistress of King Louis XV. True to the French heritage in matters of luxury manufacturing, the techniques used by the Atelier AKNAS for its galuchat are the same, albeit evolved, Mr Galluchat painstakingly developed.
The stingray skin we process into so-called galuchat or shagreen is from the stingray ( Dasyatis sephen ) and is not under species protection. It can be shipped and imported worldwide without CITES.
There are 3 species of stingrays that are protected species. These are the large manta ray, the mobular ray and the Potamotrygon freshwater stingray which is found in Brazil.