Lambskin and calfskin are both considered to be luxury leathers. They both have a soft and supple texture as they are made from the hides of young animals which are more flexible and thinner than older ones. There are some differences between lambskin and calfskin that make them suitable for use for different products.
Lambskin is the softest and thinnest type of leather. It is also a unique leather because it can be tanned with some of the wool still attached to the skin. It is often described as being “buttery” to the touch and is both supple and smooth. It has insulating properties, but it is not as durable as other leathers. The top grain can be scratched fairly easily and it can stretch and reshape over time.
Calfskin is almost as soft as lambskin but is slightly thicker and more durable. It is usually vegetable-tanned, has very little discernible grain and has a velvety broken-in feeling. It can withstand abrasions better than lambskin, but is not as weather-resistant and insulating. The soft supple texture increases with wear and age, and it is less likely to stretch over time than lambskin.
Types of products
The delicate nature of lambskin means it is not used for items with heavy use such as boots or handbags. It is mainly used for leather coats and jackets and also makes excellent gloves for colder climates. Because calfskin is more durable it is used for wallets, handbags, shoes and other accessories as well as jackets and gloves. It is still used in book binding and is also used in saddle making.
Lambskin must be dry-cleaned because moisture and cleaning products could damage the wool fibres. It can be difficult to clean as dirt and liquid is absorbed into the pores. Calfskin can be gently brushed with a horsehair polishing brush to remove any dust and then polished with a chamois buff. This softens and smoothes residual wax in the leather pores and restores a nice patina. Occasionally you will need to polish with special products recommended for calfskin.