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Innovative products by using tanned sturgeon skin

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Sturgeon-skin luxury handbags may soon be all the rage

Sturgeon are currently best known for providing caviar, but they may soon be associated with luxury leather goods. EU-funded researchers are preparing to market their sustainably and ethically produced STURSKIN to Italian designers.

Industrial Technologies icon Industrial Technologies
Food and Natural Resources icon Food and Natural Resources

Sturgeon farmers typically dispose of sturgeon skins as waste or sell them for use in the low-end gelatine market. Thanks to recently developed pioneering and sustainable technology to revalorise sturgeon skin, that could change dramatically with benefits to the entire supply and production chain. Italian tannery SME Newport SRL has used EU-funding of the STURSKIN project to conduct critical feasibility studies and identify and address technical and legal constraints. STURSKIN is now ready for marketing and industrial scale-up. One of the biggest challenges is also a potential deal-breaker Prioritising ethical and transparent sourcing of sturgeon skins was a requirement. As project coordinator Maurizio Sabatini explains, “Addressing various legal barriers and non-standardised procedures gave birth to a system in full compliance with the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES).” The project team chose one of the largest European sturgeon breeders based on consideration of animal welfare, the quality of breeding techniques, and the ability to guarantee full traceability of the supply. Thanks to CITES conformity, consumers can be certain STURSKIN comes from non-wild, bred sturgeon that are not endangered species. Sustainable and eco-friendly tanning produces soft and pliable high-value leather STURSKIN suppliers need only salt the skins and place them in heat-insulated boxes for shipping. On arrival at the tannery, the skins are desalted and washed several times before tanning. Developing the desired tanning and softening techniques was quite a challenge. Sturgeon skin has bony plates. As Sabatini explains, “The bony plates are all different, like human fingerprints, making STURSKIN suitable for the creation of goods destined for the luxury market.” They also impart durability and texture. Retaining these characteristics was critical to success. According to Sabatini, “The first pieces made, although very beautiful, were unworkable and extremely rigid. The search for possible improvements was very long and complicated, balancing the use of environmentally friendly compounds with technical constraints on processing. If treated harshly, the bone plates separate from the rest of the skin.” Traditionally, tanning relies on chemicals such as trivalent chromium or formaldehyde. STURSKIN is produced with an extremely delicate tanning technique based on naturally occurring plant-based tannins. In the end, STURSKIN’s unique recipe of chemical and physical processes gives STURSKIN a softness and workability similar to that of commercial leathers while preserving its unique bony-plated look and feel. Sturgeon-skin luxury products are ready to hit the market As Sabatini sums it up, “STURSKIN reuses waste skins from the industrial sector that would otherwise be disposed of, transforms them into products of the highest value and with unique aesthetics, using a process that is respectful of the environment and with guaranteed transparency and sustainability of the raw skin origins.” He and his team have developed a pioneering recipe for tanning of sturgeon skin and a product pipeline sure to be a recipe for success. They have initiated collaborations with Italian luxury fashion institutes and discussions with designers, both artisanal and big-name players, as well as potential partners in other European countries and the United States. Get ready to put a beautiful STURSKIN handbag on your birthday wish list.


STURSKIN, skin, sturgeon, tanning, luxury, bony plates, leather, Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES), waste, tannery, designers, sustainable, fashion

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