In late November 1786 the 53 ton Danish Brigantine ‘Metta Catherina’ slipped her moorings in the Russian port of St. Petersburg bound for Genoa in Italy with a cargo of leather hides and hemp.
On December 10th 1786 a strong gale blowing from the SW forced her to seek shelter in Plymouth Sound. By 10pm that evening – the Sound became a maelostrom of waves and spray and the ship struck Drakes Island before being blown across towards Mount Edgcumbe and being wrecked on the Cornish side of the Sound.
The ship and its cargo were lost for 200 years before being discovered 30 metres below the surface of Plymouth Sound. The ship’s bell identified the vessel as the ‘Metta Catherina von Flensburg’.
Further investigation by the British Sub Aqua club revealed that some of her cargo was in a remarkably good state of preservation after 2 centuries immersed in black anaerobic mud beneath Plymouth Sound.
The bulk of the leather was identified as Reindeer hide and had been tanned in the traditional Russian way using willow bark and birch oil which gave the leather a lovely smoky aroma – which can stll be smelled today !!
At that time the world was in awe of Russia leather which was of a quality never equalled before or since. The quality of the leather used to make cavalry boots and saddles could be decisive in winning a battle which could win or lose a kingdom. Of such importance was the quality of this leather that England sent spies to determine how it was made.
The spies were caught and never returned – being hung for their troubles.
The secret of Russia leather was never discovered and was finally lost for ever during the Russian Revolution of 1917.
We are incredibly fortunate in having secured some of this Reindeer hide which features a cross hatched grain which would have been applied by the Russian curriers at the time.
The same diced grain can be seen on upholstery and book binding from the period.
And the strong smoky smell is still there !!
Any of the keyrings in our range can be specified in this leather for an additional charge of £75 and will be accompanied by a certificate of authenticity. Simply message us at the time of ordering.
Plain keyrings made using this Russian Reindeer Hide are available in the website shop in the Russian Reindeer Hide section in the alphabetical list.