Products made from sturgeon leather and the production process
Swiss-made fish leather – from sturgeon skin
A by-product of caviar production has become a highlight in textile design
Regarding sturgeon skin simply as a leftover from caviar production doesn't quite coincide with our thoughts on sustainability, and it definitely doesn't fit with the sustainability principles shared by Tropenhaus Frutigen, Oona Caviar and textile and product designer Sabina Brägger.
While searching for a suitable material that she could use to make innovative, high-quality and sustainable textile products, the designer found out that the Tropenhaus Frutigen was breeding sturgeon and realised that as well as the fish being a source of caviar and sturgeon meat, their leather had unique potential as a material for high-quality products.
Sustainability, Swissness & exclusivity
Handmade, sustainable Swiss products made from sturgeon leather available exclusively
We have a range of sturgeon leather products that includes bracelets, belts, key rings, visiting card cases and wallets, all made exclusively for Oona Caviar and available from our online shop.
An extraordinary material, sturgeon leather is robust, waterproof and develops a patina.
Producing Swiss sturgeon leather
There was a lot of trying, testing and deliberation required before the dream of this first and only Swiss sturgeon leather finally became reality, but Sabina Brägger and the Zeller tannery worked closely together to bring a touch of Swiss innovation to the Nordic tradition of making leather from the skin of fish. To create this new Swiss product they completely redesigned the process for producing sturgeon leather.
In keeping with the Frutigen sustainability principles, vegetable tanning was used, an environmentally friendly process that avoids the use of harmful toxins. A further sustainability benefit is that fish leather is also easier to process, biodegradable and recyclable.
Preparing and tanning the skins
The sturgeon skins are frozen at Tropenhaus Frutigen before transportation to the Zeller tannery, where any fish remnants are removed by hand. The skins are then transferred to oak barrels for tanning using mimosa. The process lasts three weeks and the barrels rotate constantly.
After this homogeneous tanning process, the excess tanning agents are removed from the skin by pressing. Before they are laid out to dry, the sturgeon skins are lubricated using oil and steam. The oil is then also removed by pressing, and the skins are dried.
Drying and processing
Once it has dried, the sturgeon leather is shaved to make it even, soft and ready for further processing. The characteristic features of the finished sturgeon leather are a grain reminiscent of tree bark and a surface which feels very similar to cork.
Turning the narrow strips of skin into high-quality leather products with these characteristics presented a number of production challenges and required a huge amount of creativity and practice, but the imagination knows no bounds, and sturgeon leather has proven itself to be an excellent design material for the textile industry.
Characteristics and final products
Sturgeon leather is a highly durable product that darkens over time and develops its own patina. It is also highly waterproof and unlike other animal leathers doesn't get damaged if it repeatedly comes into contact with water.
Hand-finished sturgeon leather products stand for a lifestyle that embraces sustainability, Swissness and exclusivity.
Smaller products and accessories made of Swiss sturgeon leather such as belts, bracelets, wallets, visiting card cases, key rings and a handbag are available from our online shop.
The designer and her partners
To find out more about textile designer Sabina Brägger, her partners and other sturgeon leather products, please click on the links below.
For more sturgeon leather products and information about the textile and product designer:
You can also visit the Zeller tannery:
For interesting facts about breeding sturgeon, please see the Tropenhaus Frutigen website: