Alum leather

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Description

Leather produced by tawing a skin with aluminum potassium sulfate. This ancient method was likely invented in Mesopotamia and spread to Egypt by about 1600 BCE. The skin was tumbled in drums with an aqueous alum solution then neutralized in a sodium carbonate solution. It produced a soft, pliable white leather. Furs and pelts were also prepared in this manner. However, the treatment is reversible and washed out with water. As a result many alum tawed skins were treated with fats and waxes to add water resistance. Alum tawed leathers are still used for some conservation treatments.

Synonyms and Related Terms

"alum tawed leather; tawed leather; alum tanned leather; piel o cuero curtido con alumbre (Esp.); cuir tanné à l'alun (Fr.); pele curtida com alúmen (Port.); leer dat met aluin is behandeld (Ned); white leather; whittawed leather; alum tawed leather; tawed leather; cuir tanné à l'alun (Fr.); pele curtida com alumen (Port.); alum tanned leather; white leather"

Additional Information

R. Barlee, 'Aluminium Tannages', Skin Deep Vol. 11, 2001: biannual newsletter published by J. Hewit & Sons Tanners and Leathers Dressers found online at http://www.hewit.com/sd11-leat.htm

Sources Checked for Data in Record

  • G.S.Brady, Materials Handbook, McGraw-Hill Book Co., New York, 1971 Comment: p. 797
  • Hermann Kuhn, Conservation and Restoration of Works of Art and Antiquities, Butterworths, London, 1986
  • Website address 2 Comment: R. Barlee, 'Aluminium Tannages', Skin Deep biannual newsletter published by J. Hewit & Sons Tanners and Leathers Dressers found online at http://www.hewit.com/sd11-leat.htm
  • External source or communication Comment: Contribution from Alexis Hagadorn

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