There is so much to know when it comes to cork.
It is a natural material derived from the cork oak tree. It has a history of use dating back for thousands of years, and as with so many natural products, it is proving to have a wide range of applications in the modern world.
Cork has been used for thousands of years as a stopper in bottles. It has even been found in the tombs dating back to ancient Egypt. Ancient Greeks and Romans also made good use of it, and it was found use as floats for fishing nets, sandals, wine bottle stoppers and even personal flotation devices for fishermen. It was used to build homes, and as an insulator to keep villagers warm in winter and cool in summer. As well as being used on floors to make them soft and comfortable to walk on and keep out pests and insects.
What is cork exactly? Cork is the outermost layer of bark of two different types of oak tree that grow in the Mediterranean and Iberian region. It is harvested when the tree reaches 20 years of age.
How is it harvested? Cork is harvested from the oak trees using a specially designed hatchet. Vertical and horizontal cuts are made through the bark, being careful not to hurt the living part of the tree. The layer is then removed using the wedge shaped side of the hatchet. The slabs are then left to cure outside in the sun and rain for up to 6 months, which flattens and strengthens them.
The fact that cork trees aren’t harmed when the cork is collected, and that better quality cork is produced on older trees means that producers are best served by allowing the trees to grow undisturbed in large stands. This provides excellent habitat for local wildlife, some of which, like the Iberian lynx, is in danger of extinction.
But how does the cork become cork leather?
When the process of harvesting the cork is complete, a fabric backing is then pressed on the cork sheet, which is bonded by suberin, a naturally occurring adhesive present in the cork. The resulting product is flexible, soft and strong and is the most environmentally friendly ‘vegan leather’ on the market.
Cork leather has a smooth and shiny finish, an appearance which only improves over time and is extremely durable. Here are only a few of the unique properties of cork leather-
-Innovative texture: to the touch and as a vision it creates a unique feeling. Some people compare it to animal skin, but in reality there is no other material that can compare to it.
-Natural: Extracted directly from the bark of the cork oak, it has physical and chemical properties that cannot be reproduced by humans.
-Eco: Cork oak has the ability to regenerate its bark. This allows the use of its bark without damaging the tree itself.
-Robust: the chemical and physical structure of the cork provides high wear resistance.
-Hypoallergenic: due to its ability not to absorb dirt, it is "immunized" against microorganisms.
-Waterproof: the natural properties of the cork, enhanced during the processing process, allow the cork leather to be waterproof and even be used in the production of umbrellas.
-Does not absorb grease: finished cork leather products do not absorb dust and grease and do not retain stains.
Fifty per cent of the volume of cork is air and consequently products made from cork leather are lighter than their leather counterparts. The honeycomb cell structure of cork makes it an excellent insulator: thermally, electrically and acoustically. The elasticity of cork guarantees that a cork leather article will retain its shape and because it does not absorb dust it will remain clean. Like all materials, the quality of cork varies: there are seven official grades, and the best quality cork is smooth and without blemish. It is important to recognise that there is no straight comparison to be made here. The quality of cork leather will depend on the quality of the cork used and that of the material with which it has been backed.
Cork leather is the latest innovation in the processing of cork bark. Only the best cork material is used to make it soft, beautiful and strong. Cork Leather is a natural product. It is made from fine sheets of natural cork, extracted from the bark of cork oak. These fine sheets are applied with special technology on different types of bases depending on its subsequent use - for bags, accessories, jewelry, umbrellas, raincoats, furniture upholstery, etc.
The resistance of the cork leather is remarkable. To protect it from stains, it is treated with a special protective finish. The cork material is as strong as animal skin. The main difference between the two is that cork leather is waterproof and can even be cleaned with water and mild soap.