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All the Colors of the Shell Cordovan Rainbow

Shell Cordovan is often hailed as the ‘king of leathers’, and for good reason. It’s a premium leather, made from the flat muscle (or shell) beneath the hide on the rump of a horse. The tanning process required to produce shell cordovan is a long, complex, labor-intensive tanning process that takes at least six months, meaning it is only produced by a small collection of tanneries around the world and much is made by Chicago’s Horween Tannery.

Despite its elaborate tanning process, Shell Cordovan is produced in a variety of colors, which unlike most leathers, have signature names that don’t vary much from manufacturer to manufacturer. We’ve taken the time to put together a rundown of all of the Shell Cordovan colors, from ‘color 8’ to ‘whiskey’ in alphabetical order. This way, you’ll be able to recognize these colors when they’re used on fine leather goods and know what’s out there when you’re ready for your next purchase.

Amaretto

All-the-Colors-of-the-Shell-Cordovan-Rainbow-Alden-Amaretto-Shell-Cordovan-Jumper-Boots-via-Alden

Alden Amaretto Shell Cordovan Jumper Boots via Alden

Amaretto Shell Cordovan falls between Whiskey Shell Cordovan and Ravello Shell Cordovan. It’s a medium-to-light brown with a red undertone.

Black

All-the-Colors-of-the-Shell-Cordovan-Rainbow-Alden-SF-boot-in-black-shell-cordovan-via-Leather-Soul

Alden SF boot in black shell cordovan via Leather Soul

Classic, sleek, and smart. Black shell cordovan will give footwear a formal edge due to its lustrous sheen. The Flat Head often used this color of shell cordovan for their range of money wallets and coin purses.

Bourbon

All-the-Colors-of-the-Shell-Cordovan-Rainbow-Viberg-Bourbon-Shell-Cordovan-Service-Boots-via-Viberg

Viberg Bourbon Shell Cordovan Service Boots via Viberg

The closest Shell Cordovan comes to ‘tan’, Bourbon is a light brown leather with some shimmers of medium brown.

Brandy & Whiskey

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DaLuca Handmade Brandy Shell Cordovan Bi-Fold Wallet via Materialicious

Brandy Shell Cordovan is a medium to light brown tone. While some patina is expected over time, it won’t be as dark or vivid as the patinas earned by natural shell cordovan.

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Whiskey Shell Cordovan via Shell Cordovan Toscana Italia

Whiskey Shell Cordovan is a medium to light brown tone, but a few shades lighter than Brandy. Like with the Brandy Shell,  some patina is expected over time, but it won’t be as dark or vivid as the patinas earned by natural shell cordovan.

Colors #2, 4, 6, & 8

Horween numbers these red and brown Shells in order of darkness–i.e. the proportion of brown to red– from #2 (lightest and most red) to #8, the darkest and most brown.

Color #2

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Shell Cordovan Color 2 Fat Herbie Wallet by Ashland Leather via Paul Mak

A classic, oxblood red, color #2 has tones of cherry red and warm wood which will become even more apparent as the piece of leather ages. Color #2 is rarely produced.

Color #4

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Viberg Color 4 Shell Cordovan Service Boot via Viberg

A rich and complex medium brown that flaunts hints of red and darker tones of brown in different lights, Color #4 is a rarely seen color of Shell Cordovan.

Color #6

All-the-Colors-of-the-Shell-Cordovan-Rainbow-Rider-Boot-Co.-Richmond-42-Last,-Color-6-Shell-Cordovan-via-Pinterest

Rider Boot Co. Richmond 42 Last, Color 6 Shell Cordovan via Pinterest

Another rarely seen Shell, Color #6 Shell Cordovan is a medium-dark brown with dark red tones, a few shades lighter than Color #8.

Color #8

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Viberg Color 8  Shell Cordovan Service Boot via Viberg

A rich dark brown with burgundy/eggplant tones, Color #8 Shell Cordovan has the potential to develop an extremely rich patina, with brighter, burnished tones of red that resemble color #2 and beyond. Coveted by leather heads around the world, Color #8 is often referred to simply as ‘Cordovan’.

Cigar

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Cigar Shell Cordovan Alden Chukka Boot via Alden

A medium-to-dark brown that is produced exclusively for Alden.

Cognac

All-the-Colors-of-the-Shell-Cordovan-Rainbow-Cognac-Shell-Cordovan-Grant-Stone-Plain-Toe-Bluchers-via-Grant-Stone

Cognac Shell Cordovan Grant Stone Plain Toe Bluchers via Grant Stone

Similar to Brand and Whiskey, Cognac Shell Cordovan is a rich medium-to-light brown.

Garnet

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Garnet Shell Cordovan via Ashland Leather

The most red Shell Cordovan out there, Garnet is a bright, woody red.

Gunmetal

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Gunmetal Shell Cordovan RBBAL1 Boot via Rider Boot Co.

A very rarely seen color of Shell Cordovan, Gunmetal is a grey tone that lives up to its name with shimmering silver hues.

Dark Green

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Green Shell Cordovan Penny Loafers via Genuine Horween Products

A charming bottle green with emerald notes, green Shell Cordovan is a unique leather with the potential for some interesting patina.

Navy

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Navy Shell Cordovan Bifold Wallet via Reddit

A rich, dark navy.

Intense Blue

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Intense Blue Shell Cordovan Viberg Service Boots

A brighter version of the navy Shell Cordovan.

Mahogany

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Viberg Mahogany Shell Cordovan Derby Boot via Viberg

Mahogany shell Cordovan is an antique brown with a touch of red.

Natural

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Natural Shell Cordovan Cardholder via Guarded Goods

Undyed and glazed Shell Cordovan. The shells are glazed with an old fashioned glazing jack which quickly rubs a glass rod back and forth on the hide to give it a polished look.

Natural Shell Cordovan has the most potential when it comes to patina, as it is undyed, leaving it to age and darken itself.

Natural (unglazed)

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Specially Aniline Dyed Shinki Hikaku Natural Shell Cordovan via StyleForum

Natural Shell Cordovan which has had the glazing step omitted, leaving it with a matt texture that reveals more of the leather’s natural character.

Natural Shell Cordovan has the most potential when it comes to patina, as it is undyed, leaving it to age and darken itself.

Ravello

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Alden Plain Toe Boot in Shell Cordovan via Alden

An antique brown colorway made exclusively for Alden.

Ultraviolet

Ultraviolet shell cordovan wallet from Ashland Leather.

Ultraviolet is one of the most playful colors of cordovan, with a deep fuschia tone that borders on hot pink and raspberries. Take note if you ever get into leather goods, Lisa Frank!