As granite and marble counter tops have become more common, people are looking for something different. For a while a honed finish (instead of a polished finish) was enough different. However, there are some draw backs to a honed finish.
First a honed finish washes out the color. This is more noticeable on darker materials rather than lighter materials. Also a honed finish is more susceptible to staining than a polished surface. With the use of a sealer and proper care and cleaning though this a honed surface can still be practical. Also the use of a color enhancing sealer can bring back some of the color on a darker stone.
Still with only a polished or honed surface finishes for options it didn’t take long for a honed surface to be almost as common as a polished surface. You may be asking, “Now what?” Well, the process of “antiquing” has been around in other mediums for a while now, say a “distressed” piece of wood work or flooring. Or in the case of stone, tumbled marble tiles. But tumbling a whole slab is not practical (if even possible). That is where leathering comes in.
Leathering is a second generation process developed as a replacement for the river washed finish. A leathered finish has some of the positives of both a honed and river washed surface without some of the negatives. First, a leathered finish retains the natural color of the stone and does not wash out like either a honed or river washed surface while at the same time not having the high gloss of a polished surface. A good comparison is that of a glossy photo (polished) to a matte photo (leathered). Second, the degree (or depth) of texture will vary based on the stone it is being applied on. This makes each piece that much more unique. Also the leather finish is less prone to staining than a honed or river washed finish (though not as resistant as a polished surface).
More information about surface finishes and their uses can be found on our Surface Finishes page.