Updated: Jan 13, 2019
There are really two main things that I consider when I make a purchase on accessories these days. The first being its versatility, and the second being the meaning or the significance of the product.
In today's article, I will be introducing you all to an accessory made out of a truly unique material that not only fits the first qualification, but even more so on the second qualification. I present you all -- the 1786 Russian Hide, being accessed exclusively by the one and only GJ Cleverley.
So what's so remarkable about this leather, you may ask? Visualize it this way; this is a leather which would make exotic leathers like alligator or shark commonplace. They all simply do not share the legendary journey undergone by these precious materials.
This brings us back to the stormy day of December 10th, 1786 when the "Metta Catharina" would meet her end at the Plymouth Sound. Originally, the Danish brigantine had been bound for the Mediterranean with a cargo of hemp and leather from the Russian port of St. Petersburg. However, when it reached the Plymouth Sound, the wind from the Southwest was too strong such that it was forced to seek shelter somewhere nearby.
While the ship would have been protected and have stayed in safe anchorage if the wind did not change its direction, the winds strengthened and shifted from Southwest to South during the day; leaving the "Catharina" fully exposed.
Later the night the ship would break free from her anchor and be blown towards Mount Edgecumbe before sinking to the seabed. Though the crew were able to get ashore, the "Metta Catharina" and its precious cargo were lost until almost 200 years later.
It was not until the year of 1973 when two divers from the Plymound Sound discovered the ship's bell on the sea floor, 30 meters below the surface. After further investigation on the journey of brigantine, it was revealed that bundles of hides were laid on the seabed. Despite being immersed in black mud for almost two centuries, the 'Russia' leather were still in great condition.
However, what makes the leather more rare is it could never be produced again. Not only are there certain amount of Reindeer hides that could be savaged from the shipwreck, but also the method of producing the leather is lost.
The Russian leather was renowned for being the finest for making leather goods in Europe during the 18th century. To this, Western tanners had desperately tried to duplicate the distinctive texture, as well as the aroma of the leather; all but failed eventually. To some point, they even sent spies to try to uncover trade secrets.
It all came to the end when the Russian Revolution came in the 1917. The new provisional government shut production down, and exact procedure of how it was made became lost forever.
Luckily, I have the opportunity to obtain some of these precious leathers through the form of slim card case from George Cleverley. Because the leather was tanned through the traditional Russian why which involves soaking in pits with willow bark and currying with birch oil, this gave the wallet a very exceptional aroma.
On top of that, this famous leather is also renowned for its ability to resist water and repel insects. Frankly speaking, there is perhaps no other leather in the world that could rival the Reindeer hides' timelessness and historical relevance.
Like I said, once this leather is gone, it'll be gone forever. For menswear enthusiasts and historians; even if you do not plan to get large leather goods or bespoke shoes made from the hides, you should still consider to get a small accessory like the slim card case.
With all said, don't forget to check out GJ Cleverley's website for leather goods made from the Russia leather.