The Full Wiki

Shagreen: Wikis


Note: Many of our articles have direct quotes from sources you can cite, within the Wikipedia article! This article doesn't yet, but we're working on it! See more info or our list of citable articles.


From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

An antique round box covered with pearl ray shagreen, ground down to produce a smooth, puzzle-like surface.

Shagreen is a type of leather or rawhide consisting of rough untanned skin, formerly made from a horse's back or that of an onager (wild ass), and typically dyed green. Shagreen is now commonly made of the skins of sharks and rays. The word derives from the French chagrin (sorrow) which in turn is borrowed from Turkish sağrı "the back of a horse". The roughness of texture led to the French meaning of displeasure or ill-humor.[1]


Uses and preparation

The white handle of this tantō (left) is covered with shagreen in its natural form.

Shagreen has an unusually rough and granular surface, and is sometimes used as a fancy leather for book bindings, pocketbooks and small cases, as well as its more utilitarian uses in the hilts and scabbards of swords and daggers, where slipperiness is a disadvantage. In Asia, the Japanese Tachi, Katana, and Wakizashi swords had their hilts almost always covered in undyed, untreated shagreen, while in China shagreen was traditionally used on Qing dynasty composite bows. Typically the ears and the spaces above and beneath the grip were covered by polished shagreen (in which the calcified papillae are reduced to equal height and form a uniform surface), sometimes with inlay work of different coloured shagreen. Shagreen was a very common cover for 19th century reading glasses containers as well as other utensil boxes from China.

Shagreen leather used in bookbinding.

The early horse-skin variety of shagreen was traditionally prepared by embedding plant seeds (often Chenopodium) in the untreated skin while soft, covering the skin with a cloth, and trampling them into the skin. When the skin was dry, the seeds were shaken off, leaving the surface of the leather covered with small indentations. Sources are not clear whether this was being done to imitate pearl ray-skin shagreen from East Asia or the technique was developed separately.

In the 17th and early 18th centuries, the term "shagreen" began to be applied to leather made from sharkskin or the skin of a rayfish (probably the pearled ray, Hypolophus sephen). This form is also termed sharkskin or galuchat. Such skins are naturally covered with round, closely set, calcified papillae called placoid scales, whose size is chiefly dependent on the age and size of the animal. These scales are ground down to give a roughened surface of rounded pale protrusions, between which the dye (again, typically green vegetable dye) shows when the material is coloured from the other side. This latter form of shagreen was first popularised in Europe by Jean-Claude Galluchat (d. 1774), a master leatherworker in the court of Louis XV of France. It quickly became a fashion amongst the French aristocracy, and migrated throughout Europe by the mid-18th century. Shagreen is also a popular Hand-Made wallcovering, produced by a number of outlets.


In medicine, a shagreen patch is a patch of shagreen-like rough skin, often on the lower back, found in some people with the genetic condition tuberous sclerosis.

See also

Further reading

  • Jean Perfettini - Le galuchat (Henri Vial, 1989) ISBN 2-85101-021-2


  1. ^ Oxford English Dictionary, s.v. chagrin and shagreen

External links

1911 encyclopedia

Up to date as of January 14, 2010

From LoveToKnow 1911

SHAGREEN, a species of untanned leather with a roughened, granular surface. The word is the English form; cf. Ger. Schagrin, of Fr. chagrin, Ital. zagrin, zigrino; these are usually referred to Turkish and Persian saghri, lit. the back of a horse, and so applied to leather made from this part. The skin of the wild ass was especially used. The method of preparing the skins to secure the rough, granular surface is as follows. The seeds of a plant, usually some species of Chinopodium, are embedded in the skin while soft, the surface is then shaved down and soaked in water, when the edges of the indentations swell up. The leather is then dyed, green being a favourite colour. Shagreen is now commonly made of the skins of sharks and rays; the placoid scales of the shark skin giving the necessary roughened surface. Shagreen is used as an ornamental leather for making pocket-books, small cases and the like, and for the handles of swords, daggers, &c.

The figurative use in French of "chagrin," for anxiety, xxiv. 25 annoyance, was adopted in English in the 17th century. This application of the word is due to the rasping surface of the leather.

<< Shagia

Shah >>

Got something to say? Make a comment.
Your name
Your email address