Fur skins grading system the guide

fur skins grading system

How does the fur skins grading system work? It’s important to know if you’re buying fur skins from auctions or skins dealers.

Looking to buy fur skins from auctions, fur brokers or skin dealers? Then you need to know the fur skins grading system like you know your ABC. Its important to understand clearly what you are buying. Don’t you think?

Too often fashion brands ask me if what they are buying is right, if the skins they are choosing meet their requests. Often they don’t actually have any idea what they are buying.

Sound familiar? Let’s start from the beginning.

Fur skins can be distinguished as skins of wild origin or from farming.

  • Skins coming from the wild or rather those that are hunted are: beaver, raccoon, muskrat, sable, coyote, red fox, lynx, cat lynx, marten, otter, wolf, wolverine and black bear.
  • Skins coming from farmed animals are: mink, fox, chincilla, swakara and rabbit.

In the next post I will write about the sustainability and traceability of furs coming from farms and the sustainability and traceability of furs coming from hunting

Given that this post is entitled “fur skins grading system: the guide” here is a breakdown of the structure of the post.

Auction houses and their function

  • The classification of Nafa furs 
  • The classification of Saga Furs furs
  • The classification of Kopenhagen Fur furs
  • The classification of Sojuzpushnina furs

When was the first auction held?

Maybe you couldn’t care less – but I don’t know if my colleagues or old furriers know so I’m going to share this knowledge with you!  

The first fur auction took place in London in 1671 in the Caffè Garraway. The auction house sold thirty thousand quintals of beaver skins!

From 1671 to 2018 many things have changed, but many things have also remained the same. Let’s look at what happens in a modern fur auction house:

What are fur auctions?

Fur auctions sell skins coming from farms and hunters to brokers and skin dealers.

The auctions receive the skins and sort them. Those that do not conform to the high standards modern brands expect are sent back to the farmers or hunters. Once the skins are sorted, analysed by type, sex, colour, sheen, hair length, softness and density of the skins long nap and short nap, then they are classified and catalogued.

The calendar of the next auction houses 

Kopenhagen Fur auction house Copenhagen Denmark 

Inspection days: From 25 to 31 August 2018

Auction days: From 1 to 11 September 2018

Saga Furs – Helsinki Finland  

Inspection days: From 17 to 18 December 2018

Auction days: From 19 to 20 December 2018

Sojuzpushnina Saint Petersburg Moscow 

Inspection days: From 14 to 15 December 2018

Auction day: 16 December 2018

Nafa – Toronto 

Inspection days: From 26 February to 4 March 2019

Auction days: to be defined

Inspection days

Inspection days are full days dedicated to checking and analysing skins. The brokers, on arrival at the auction, arm themselves with the catalogue of the skins that will be sold over the next days and an overcoat. The overcoat is to prevent them from getting dirty while analysing the skins in their raw state (they are hard, dirty with wee and have a string odour). The smell is something you either like or you don’t. Personally, despite being particularly sensitive to smell, I like it or maybe I’m used to it. It gets into your clothes and hair so much that, back at the hotel, having a shower and washing your clothes is a must.

The brokers analyse the fur skins they want to buy following the catalogue with all the lots of skins that will be sold at auction over the following days. The skins are analysed in an inspection room on tables that are all of the same blue colour and with the same light. As you already know, I studied to become a broker taking the skin sorting course at Kopenhagen Fur and I have made many videos at auction that you will find on my blog

What does the phrase ‘the brokers analyzes the skins” mean?

The broker has a very important job. He must find the best lot of fur skins that corresponds to the clients’ needs (Fashion Brands or Furriers) at the best price with the best quality. The brand’s commission to the broker might be: to budget, x number of skins, size x, male and/or female, etc…

The skins are sorted by the auctions in various ways. Generally this is based on sex, size, colour/type, quality and other characteristics (depending on the type of fur skins and the type of auction). I won’t list them now because I will describe them below analyzing every single fur skin per type of auction. The brokers travel around the auctions all year from Toronto to Copenhagen, from Helsinki to Saint Petersburg. They buy the skins commissioned by clients and must have excellent skills and experience not only in evaluating the quality of the skins but also in logistics, insurance and financing.

interviewed Natasha the only woman broker in the sector and 

Rino Ghielmetti of SF Collezione a really famous player of the fur sector

The auctions days are dedicated to selling lots of the fur skins. All the brokers gather in the Auction Room, with their eye on the catalogue, trying to win the lot. The skins start from a price.

Today in August 2018 you can buy a mink for 25 euros. 25 euros! Less than the production cost. Yes! Because producing a mink skin takes at least 30 euros.

The auctions are selling below cost.

The prices are really low and this is the best moment to buy.

If I were a brand I would buy NOW! 

To win the lot the brokers have to raise the price. They do this raising their hands and shouting  UP.

Often many brokers want to buy the same lot of fur skins. That, for a spectator, is the best moment to see: you can sense the adrenalin and a continuous shouting of UP UP UP. Here is small part of the video I made at Saga Furs during at the auction room.

Five seconds of my personal story.

For six long years I took part in the auctions that are held about four times year and are usually one after the other like fashion weeks. I have been to Sojuzpushnina, Saga Furs and Kopenhagen Fur. Nafa not yet.

Saga Furs and Kopenhagen Furs auctions sell mainly furs coming from farms. Nafa and Sojuzpushnina sells mainly hunted skins.

Instead of being at catwalk shows I went to the auctions. 

Today I divide myself between the men’s and women’s Ready to Wear and Couture fashion weeks. That means that I travel for about six months of the year around fashion and fur capitals. I love my work, and I think that passion shows from the pieces I create on the blog.

But let’s get back to business!

Fur skins grading system / classification 

In the technical terminology of fur, classification is called  grading, long hair is long nap, short hair is short nap. There are many other terms you should know: I suggest you read the dictionary of technical terminology of fur that I wrote.

I will start by telling you about NAFA Auction House.

Nafa auction house is in Canada in Toronto and is specialized in the sale of wild fur skins and fur skins coming from farmed animals.

Nafa offers wild skins: beaver, raccoon, muskrat, sable, coyote, red fox, lynx, cat lynx, marten, otter, wolf, wolverine, black bear 

Nafa also offers farmed skins: silver fox and mink. Regarding mink Nafa has recently bought Blackglama, the oldest fur skin brand, in the past the most famous in the world. It has lost a little of the strength of its brand above all in Europe but I am sure that Nafa will do a great job to get it back to its past luster 

nafa auction fur grading blackglama nafa fur skins grading

DESCRIPTION AND FUR GRADING OF WILD NAFA SKINS

I will describe technically what I believe is the most important information on some  fur typology of skins. I will not list them all because the post is already too long and the objective is just to let you know the different fur grading of the most requested fur skins on the market. For all the other you can contact me via email.

Beaver skins grading system

Beaver: one of the oldest furs in the world, as I wrote before it was also the first skin sold at fur auction. Beaver skin is waterproof and the shorter fur (the wool that in the technical terminology of fur is called underwool) is thin, soft and very thick.

The colours go from black to grey and the short hair is two centimetres while the top hair is at most six centimetres from its length and goes from black to reddish. The long hair keeps the skin clean and dry.

Beaver skins have two classifications EASTERN BEAVERS and WESTERN BEAVERS.

Eastern beaver skins are separated into two sizes: heavy and medium. The heavy ones are Canadian and the underwool is deep and thick, while the medium ones come from the Unites States and the hair is not very heavy. Western beaver skins are larger compared to the biggest Eastern ones and have a lighter colour and a rough texture

Raccoon skins: there are various types 

– Canadian have a very deep underwool, a hairy texture and go from medium to long nap. The colour is variable and the sizes vary between 20 cm and 30 cm wide 

– Western Northern: the skins have very heavy hair and medium texture. Same size as the Canadian 

 Western North Central: the skins have a long undrwool from medium to intermediate with a silky texture. The top hair is long. The size goes from 18 to 20 cm and it is the smallest of the first listed.

– Western Semi Heavy: the skins have an underwool of medium length with a silky texture and average length top hair. The size goes from 16 to 19 cm.

– Eastern North Central: the skins have a medium-heavy underwool with a woolly texture and a medium length of hair. The colour is average quality and is darker than others. The size of the skin goes from 16 to 19 cm.

– Eastern Semi Heavy: medium length underwool, the hair has a silky texture, average colour with a darker type of hair Sizes vary from 16 to 17,80 cm

– Central: these skins have a medium to light weight with a silky texture and a medium to short hair. Average colour. Sizes vary from 16 to 17 cm.

– Coat: are shaved skins, they have only short, very silky, very soft hair and have a medium to good colour. Sizes vary from 14-17 cm.

The grading of Nafa raccoon skins

To classify raccoon skins the size, hair colour, quality and under quality are considered.

The sizes in total are: 5XL (over 97 cm) 4XL, 3XL, 2XL, XL, LGE, LM, MED, SML (under 51 cm) 

There are five hair colours: 

extra clear: the top hair is very light silver, and the short hair is bluish 

clear: the top hair is light silver and the underwool is grey-blue

slight off: the skins have a yellowish colour and the underwool is the same colour, just a bit lighter

off: the predominant colour both of the hair and the underwool goes from yellow to orange

badly off: both the hair and the underwool vary from a very intense yellow to an almost red orange

Quality and below quality raccoon skins

In the selection I are: 

select: skins of early winter, density from maximum to excellent with a thick underwool without bites or holes. The hide is cream colour and can have no more than three holes or imperfections.

first: good density of the hair, the skins are completely covered and the hide is blue and can have up to three imperfections or holes.

first and second: young skins, the fur has medium density and the hair is slightly sparse and the underwool too. The colour of the hide can be slate, cream or blue and can have up to a maximum of three well-apart holes.

second: Spring skins with scarse hair, woolly appearance, the covering of the hair is woolly and not compact. The hide is blue and can have three holes or imperfections.

slight dgd (good): same select or first but may have between four and sixholes.

slight dgd (average):same as first and second but can have between four and six holes.

In the selection || are:

damaged (gd): like select or first with superficial damage up to 25%.

damaged (av): like the first and second with superficial damage up to 25% or like select and first seriously damaged. 

damaged (pr): like second with superficial damage up to 25% or like first and second seriously damaged. 

third: are just born raccoon skins. The hide is dark blue or black.

fourth: has practically nil commercial value. 

In selection ||| are:

damaged (gd): same as selection ||.

damaged (av): same as selection ||. 

damaged (pr): same as second with superficial damage up to 50% or as first and second seriously damaged. 

third: same as selection ||.

fourth: same as selection ||.

Nafa grading of sable 

Most Nafa sable skins are hunted in Canada, about 75%. The rest in Maine, mountainous areas of the United States and in Alaska. 

Sable skins description

North Canada and Alaska produce a larger and heavier sable. 

The centre and south of Canada produce a sable that is smaller and lighter. 

Sizes of sable skins

2XL: more than 58 cm

XL: from 53 to 58 cm 

LGE: from 46 to 53 cm 

MED-SML: under 46 cm 

Colours of sable skins 

Extra dark: very rare. The fur is dark black and uniform. The guard hair (the longer and more robust part of the protection hair above the under fur) is dark brown or black. The wool or underwool is dark night blue.

Dark: sable fur is uniformly dark all over the animal. The guard hair is dark brown nearly black or sepia. The underwool is bluey-grey.

Dark Brown: these sables have a dark brown stripe in the middle of the back. The sides are of a slightly lighter brown. The guard hair is dark brown and the under fur is grey at the base and has yellowy brown tips.

Brown: the skins are lighter than the Dark Brown category. The sides can be lighter than the back stripe but generally they are uniform in colour. The under fur is grey at the base and yellowy at the tips. The guard hair is light brown on the back and at the sides.

Light Brown: these sable skins have a medium brown stripe on the back and sides are brown to light yellow. The  guard hair has dark brown tones on the back and light brown on the sides. The under fur is grey at the base and the tips are yellowy brown. The yellowy colour of the under furis clearly visible through the guard hair.

Pale: In these skins the guard hair varies from light brown in the centre to yellowy brown on the sides. The under fur is light grey at the base and the tips are yellowy orange. 

Extra Pale: The guard hair varies from light brown on the back to orange on the sides. The yellowy orange of the under fur is lighter compared to the pale colour skins. The fur in general is orangey.

Canary: these furs are pale orange and the under fur is grey only at the base. The central strip of the under fur is white and the sides are yellowy orange. The guard hair is orange at the centre and yellowy orange at the sides. Canary skins are very rare.

Quality of Nafa sable skins 

SECTION |

In section | there are the most beautiful sable skins.

Select: is the best quality possible – they are the first skins captured in the winter. The hair covers the whole hide. The fur is very silky – it is covered both with guard hair and with a heavy under wall and is completely free from imperfection.

First: very good quality. They are skins covered in hair similar to Select but the fur is not silky. The guard hair is shorter and free from any imperfections.

First and Second: can be slightly scarse, excellent underwool even if not always heavy and dense like Select and First. The fur and the hide do not present big imperfections.

Second: is divided into heavy and average. Generally they have hair that is not very brilliant and are distinguished by the density of the underwool.

Slightly Damaged: Also in this case the furs are divided into two categories, good and average. They are distinguished by the quantity of defects and imperfections they present.

There is no Section ||

SECTION |||

In Section ||| there are the most damaged sables

Damaged: the skins are divided into dcd (av) and dcd (pr) av that means average and (pr) means Prime. 

Average: they have a high percentage of damage and only a very small part of the sable fur ofPrimes is usable. Usually this type of skin is used for small accessories.  Third: the underwool is not developed. They have a minimal quantity of guard hair and are hunted in Spring. They are used mainly for linings.

Fourth: are skins captured during the summer, they have a very low commercial value, dark hide and the texture is really rough.

Red Fox grading Nafa   

You can speak of Red Fox when there are three types of colours: red, cross and silver.

In the Red phase the colour varies from a very light yellowy (Pale, Extra Pale) to a deep chestnut brown / red (Dark).

Cross Fox is the most common. Its name derives from the image of a black cross it carries on its back between the neck and the shoulder that stretches down the sides to the backside. The underlying colour of the Red Fox is more browny than red. It varies from reddish to reddy black with an impressive number of shades.

An interesting mutation regards the quality of hair known as Samson. This mutation lacks guard hair and the fox has just a very short underwool giving it a woolly look. The Samson is often black and slightly grey and has an untidy aspect as the hair is all knotted.

Red Fox change hair just once a year. It starts in spring and proceeds gradually for the whole summer.

In autumn the underwool becomes very dense and the  guard hair reaches its maximum quality between late November and the beginning of December and can remain so until mid February. As the season advances the hair of the Red Fox tends to lose value.

The two types of Red Fox are East and West.

Easterns have dark colours and often the hair has a silky texture and very dense underwool. 

Western have lighter / paler colours with long and irregular hair, silky texture and very thick hair.

Foxes from both regions are large in size and are heavy. Foxes from the central areas are lighter and those from the south are smaller.

SIZES of Nafa Red Fox 

XL-L: over 71cm 

M-SM: under  71 cm

COLOURS of Nafa Red Foxes 

Extra Dark: very brilliant dark and cherry red

Dark Red: the fur is darker and redder than the other furs, they have a red stripe on their back that stretches all along the animal’s length. The coat is very brilliant and they are often called: “Cherry Red” 

Medium: the furs are lighter than the Darks the red back stripe that goes from the shoulders tends to fade in intensity when it reaches the pelvis. 

Pale: these furs are lighter than Darks and Mediums and the back stripe isn’t very strong. 

Extra Pale: the coat of the fur is yellowy and you can’t distinguish the back strip. The skins come mainly from the West.

Bastard: the fur looks like a lighter Cross Fox but they have a red stripe that goes from the middle of the back instead of being black. The underwool has red patches and the back stripe of bastards varies in length. In fact the skins are often sorted into wide stripe and narrow stripe.

Weight of Nafa Red Fox  

In this case the skins are classified also by weight differently from minks or other animals.

Heavy: the underwool is very dense and they have the long nap.

Average: the underwool is average density, average length and hair.

Flat: the underwool is very short and the hair is short nap 

Extra Flat: the underwool is really short and practically they have only guard hair 

Quality Nafa Red Fox skins 

SECTION |

Select: they are the best quality possible. The skin is completely covered with hair. They present no imperfections.

First: excellent quality, the skin is completely covered with hair except for some weak points on the hips and it doesn’t present any imperfections.

First and Second: lack of hair on the sides and back is  visible and lack of density of the underwool.

Second: very scarse hair on the sides and back, lack of underwool.

Slightly Damaged: is divided into SDG (gd) that includes Select and First skins that are ruined up to 10% and SDG (av) that includes skins of 1- 2 quality that are more than 10% ruined.

SECTION |||

Damaged: are divided into DGD (gd) that includes selected and first skins that are up to 25% ruined and DGD (pr) that includes 1 and 2 quality skins that are more than 25% ruined and the 1s that are more than 50% ruined

Fourth: have very low commercial value, they are summer skins with untidy and very rough hair.

Nafa lynx skins: grading 

NWT: are the skins from North Canada, most lynx comes from this area. The hair is average length. The colour of the back is mostly silver and the stomach, that is the part used by designers, tends to be lighter. The hide is very elastic and easy to work.

AK: are lynx skins that come from Alaska, are wider in size, have longer hair than NWT and NTH. The belly has longer hair and looks thick. The colours of the back are silver and the tummies lighter.

NTH: is lynx from the areas of central Canada and Labrador. They have a less elastic hide, the hair is shorter they have a darker colour.

LYNX sizes (measured from the nose to the base of the tail) 

XL: over 99 cm 

L: from 88.9 cm to 99 cm 

LM: under 88.9 cm 

M:  from 78.7 cm to 88.9 cm 

SM: under78.7 cm 

LYNX BELLY COLOURS

X CLEAR / CLEAR: very clear fur with small or inexistent yellow spots of the underwool.. 

SLIGHTLY OFF: yellowy patches in the underwool of the belly.

OFF: Dark yellow to orange patches

BADLY OFF / STAINED: very orange patches on nursing females.

The classification of Nafa lynx

SECTION |: includes Select, First, First and Second and Second. They are the choice of skins with the highest quality. They have an elastic hide that is completely covered in hair. The belly is very light without patches or any imperfections. The hair is very light, soft and the underwool is very thick. 

SECTION |||: includes Third, Fourth, Slight Damaged, Damaged. These are second / last choice skins, the most damaged ones, with obvious patches, the underwool is less thick. There can be imperfections like holes and other.

LYNX CAT – BOBCAT Nafa skins the grading 

Easterns: origin Eastern United States and Eastern Canada.  Lynx Cats are famous for their size, and for their weight that goes from heavy to semi heavy. The colours of the back go from light brown to reddy brown. The clarity of the belly presents slight imprecisions.

Westerns: they have a lighter belly and a more strawy back. The weight goes from heavy to semi heavy and they have a good size. An exception to the lynx of the West is represented by the COASTAL CAT that has a very red back and a belly without any colour, practically white. Southerns: includes the cats of the south of the Inited States, they are generally very small, the bellies have no colour, the backs are dark and sometimes very spotted. They are the famous BOBCATS 

SIZE of Lynx Cats

XL: over 91.44 cm 

L: from 81.28 cm to 91.94 cm

M/SM: under 81.28 cm 

COLORS of Lynx cats 

The furs are sorted into three categories of colours of the back that are Pale, Medium and Dark. Inside these categories skins are described as blue or red. If there were a sufficient quanitity of animals with spotted backs they would be catalogued separately.

Clarity – Clarity of the belly of the Lynx Cat 

The furs are assorted into four categories of clarity

XCLEAR/ CLEAR: very light hair, wide belly with few or inexistent yellow patches

SLIGHT OFF: yellowy shades on the belly

OFF: has patches that go from dark yellow to orange BADLEY OFF/STAINED: are very orange and have evident patches above all nursing females

Classification of Nafa Lynx Cat skins

SECTION |: includes Select, First, First-Second and Second. The first are the best possible quality, skins completely covered with hair with a very thick underwool and without any imperfections and leading to the Second where the backs are not completely covered with hair and the bellies are not thick.

SECTION |||: includes Third, Fourth, Slightly Damaged and Damaged. The first are Lynx Cat skins that are not completely grown, they can also be spring skins, so they are little covered with hair leading to the last, the Damaged, that are separated into GOOD, excellent quality but with imperfections so include Selected and the | but with defects and POOR: including First and Second with imperfections.

Nafa otter skins

River otter skins are very valued given their resistance over time, in fact they are the standard on which stability and duration in time of all other furs is established.

Types of otter skin

CENTRAL: skins of this type have heavy to regular hide weight, the hair tends to be dark with a minority of lighter colours.

NORTH EAST CANADA: this area produces a great quantity of Extra Dark skins, the hide is light and the skins are often dried in the cold, with the result that the hide becomes thin like a scroll.

NORTH WEST CANADA: the skins of the West are generally clearer compared to those of the East, they are larger and have a similar weight to those of the North East of Canada even if they are not as light as them. The hair generally is quite thick and varies from straw to dark.

WEST CENTRAL: these skins are smaller with a medium light weight.

EASTERN US: this area produces very large skins with a very heavy hide and they are in the brown and black categories.  

SOUTH EAST: the skins from this area have heavier hide and the hair is semi heavy. Often this type of skin is long haired as the underwool is short so the guard hair has curly tips. 

SOUTHERN: the skins of this area are smaller than all the others and the guard hair is easily curly. The range of colours goes from light to dark brown. These skins can have value for light clothing.

SIZES of otter skins

XL: over 96.5 cm x 20 cm

LGE: 86 cm x 20 cm

LM: 81 cm X 18 cm 

MED: 76 cm x 16

SLM: under 76 cm by 16 cm

Colours of Otter skins

Colours vary from intense black to brown and they are: Extra Dark, Dark, Dark Brown, Brown, Pale e Extra Pale.

The degree of clarity of the hair (you will find the technical terms on the dedicated page click here) 

Clarity is divided into three groups that Clear, Slightly Off and Off. They are based on how red the underwool is or not, brown above all at the height of the middle of the back.

DESCRIPTION AND CLASSIFICATION OF NAFA FARMED SKINS

Silver Fox: North America Silver Fox is a high quality product, it has very silky hair, very light and brilliant.

List of sizes

4×0: over 124 cm 

3×0: from 115 cm to 124 cm

00: from 106 cm to 115 cm 

0: from 97 cm to 106 cm

1: from 88 cm to 97 cm

2: from 79 to 88 cm 

3: from 70 to 79 cm 

Colours: Extra Dark Medium, Dark Pale, Dark Medium and XPale

Clarity: Clear, Slightly Off, Off, Badly Off and Stained

Degrees of Quality:

Nafa Gold: is the best quality. First quality skins with an excellent underwool covered with guard hair. The skins are silkier and with no imperfections

Nafa Silver: are of a similar quality to gold with the difference that they are slightly less thick.

Length of the skins: Heavy Nap, Regular Nap and Short Nap

Nafa mink skins grading 

The types of Nafa mink are: Mahogany, Demi Buff, Pale Pastel, Lavender, Perl, White, Black, Blue Iris, Sapphire and Violet.

fur skins grading

The sizes of these minks are

5×0: over 101 cm

4×0: from 95 cm to 101 cm 

3×0: from 89 cm o 95 cm

00: from 83 cm to 89 cm

0: from 76 cm to 83 cm

1: from 71 cm to 77 cm

2: from 65 cm to 71 cm

3: from 59 cm to 65 cm

4: from 53 cm to 59 cm

5: from 47 cm to 53 cm

6: under 47 cm

Minks are sorting also according to the length of the hair

Extra Short nap

Short Nap

Short Medium Open

Short Medium Nap

Medium Nap

Medium Long Nap

Long Nap

Extra Long Nap

Nafa mink labels are 

Nafa Gold, Nafa Silver, Sprinklers and White Mark. The first is the best quality.

Mink skins are also classified according to colour that varies from dark to clear of the type of skins like in the examples made before.

A mink brand that I love very much for the quality is Unicorn Farms that is sold by Nafa.

KOPENHAGEN FUR

The auction house Kopenhagen Fur for which I was marketing consultant on strategic projects with big fashion brands for one year 2017-2018 and with which I have been collaborating for 5 years, is the biggest auction in the fur sector.

Kopenhagen Fur as you can understand from the name is in Denmark, not in Kopenhagen, but in Glostroup, a small town 20 minutes from the Danish capital. 

Kopenhagen Fur sells about 28 million skins a year for a turnover of  1,07 billion euros. Denmark is the biggest producer of mink skins in the world. For years Kopenhagen Fur has invested in improving the already really high conditions of the mink farms collaborating with Danish Animal Welfare Society specialized in protecting the well-being of animals.

The owners of the company are Danish mink farmers. I have written a post with Tage Pedersen, Director of all Danish farms and Chairman od the Boar of Kopenhagen Fur full of photos of mink farms in the open air and the high quality food they eat. I have also created a video with a scientist inside a mink farm to show my followers how it works and the welfare of the animals.

The auction takes place four times a year: in January, in April, in June and in September (this last is the least important as it closes the season). 

Kopenhagen Fur sells 90% mink fur mostly of Danish origin. For the rest it offers Swakara skins coming from Namibia, Chinchilla, and seal from Great Greenland. 

A few months ago the auction started selling mink skins from America (those coming from the auction’s farms don’t exist anymore since the 2018 ALC) and fox, silver fox and  Norwegian fox.

I must precise that mink skins and their trade were used and offered for the first time initially in America and then in the rest of the world. 

The fur skins grading system of Kopenhagen Fur the video I made many years ago (I was very young please do not judge me =)

KOPENHAGEN FUR LABEL

The labels of Kopenhagen Fur are

PURPLE LABEL: deserving of this label are the skins with the absolute best quality of mink, chinchilla and swakara characterized by a particular lightness and silkiness given by a very short guard hair and an exceptionally dense and thick under fur.

PLATINUM LABEL: are very high-quality furs with dense and thick guard hair and underwool.

BURGUNDY LABEL: are skins selected for their level of guard hair and for their dense and voluminous underwool.

IVORY LABEL: are skins selected for the harmony of the proportion between guard hair and underwool.

The skins are classified following these guidelines:

(Given that Kopenhagen Fur sells mainly mink and different types and I thought I would focus on these and go into the other types of skins less)

Types of mink: Black, Mahogany, Brown, Glow, Pastel, Palomino, Pearl Beige, Gold Pearl, Pearl Cross, Black Cross, Sapphire Cross, Silver Blue Cross, Sapphire, Silver Blue, Blue Iris, Jaguar, Violet, White, Dawn, Palomino Cross, Pastel Cross, Platinblond, Redglow, Stardust, Bluiris Cross and Violet Cross. 

KOPENHAGEN FUR LABEL

The labels of Kopenhagen Fur are

PURPLE LABEL: deserving of this label are the skins with the absolute best quality of mink, chinchilla and swakara characterized by a particular lightness and silkiness given by a very short guard hair and an exceptionally dense and thick under fur.

PLATINUM LABEL: are very high-quality furs with dense and thick guard hair and underwool.

BURGUNDY LABEL: are skins selected for their level of guard hair and for their dense and voluminous underwool.

IVORY LABEL: are skins selected for the harmony of the proportion between guard hair and underwool.

The skins are classified following these guidelines:

(Given that Kopenhagen Fur sells mainly mink and different types and I thought I would focus on these and go into the other types of skins less)

Types of mink: Black, Mahogany, Brown, Glow, Pastel, Palomino, Pearl Beige, Gold Pearl, Pearl Cross, Black Cross, Sapphire Cross, Silver Blue Cross, Sapphire, Silver Blue, Blue Iris, Jaguar, Violet, White, Dawn, Palomino Cross, Pastel Cross, Platinblond, Redglow, Stardust, Bluiris Cross and Violet Cross. 

kopenhagen fur mink skins typology

Describing the colour of these skins has no sense, I can insert here some photos to give you the general idea.

The big difference between American and Danish mink skins is that American minks are mainly short nap and the Danish ones are long nap. Nafa Demi Buff used by many Eurpean designers would be for Kopenhagen Fur Brown or Mahogany.

Here is a video with Lone Quality Manger of Kopenhagen Fur skins (excusee my image I was really very young and unexperienced and above all enthusiastic) with all the typology of minks

Sex: female are distinguished by lightness, they have a thin hide and a fine and thin hair. The males have a slightly heavier hide and slightly thicker guard hair and they are wider and longer than females

Size: There are 10 sizes. 50 over 101 cm, 40 from 95 cm to 101 cm, 30 from 89 cm to 95 cm, 00 from 83 cm to 89 cm, 0 from 77 cm to 83 cm, 1 from 71 cm to 77 cm, 2 from 65 cm to 71 cm, 3 from 59 cm to 65 cm, 4 from 53 cm to 59 cm, 5 from 47 cm to 53 cm  

Colour: Black, XXXDark, XXDark, XDark, Dark, Medium, Pale, XPale, XXPale, XXXPale and White.

Clarity / Brillance: they are divided into four categories: 1,2,3 and 4. With quality 1 the underwool is bluish, quality 2 follows the colour of the hair, quality 3 has a browner colour  and quality 4 is reddish.

Hair Length: are separated into classic, velvet and Long Nap. In classic the length of the guard hair is only a little different from the underwool and the skin is characterized by the dominance of guard hair. While in Velvet the length of the guard hair is only slightly greater than the underwool so the skin distinguishes itself for the dominance of the underwool. Long Nap where the guard hair is much longer than the underwool, so the fur distinguishes itself for the dominance of guard hair.

Other characteristics that distinguish the types of hair are silkiness and roughness of the hair. Silkiness describes a skin with a guard hair that is very fine, straight, parallel and all the same length. 

Metallic means roughness and is given by the combination of roughness and overlapping of guard hair that, curving towards the underwool generates and irregular and enriched surface.

Quality: Purple, Platinum, Burgundy, Ivory, are the four labels described at the beginning of the post and are the best. The other qualities of skins are average low and are: ||, |||, Sprinklers (that has a lot of white top hair and small white areas in the wool), Breeders (they are characterized by red stripes on the belly and have a fatter hide than normal), Summer Skins (mink that haven’t completely developed red colour winter hair and the top hair on the neck looks a reddy colour), White Wool and Damaged Skins. 

Quality Control: checks on the quality of the sorting

Lot: creation of lots

Chincilla fur skins by Kopenhagen Fur 

As chinchilla is one of my favourite skins I want to say a few words:

There are five natural chinchilla colours: Black Velvet, Beige, Shadow, Violet and Standard.

chinchilla skins

Here below are the photos taken for my blog in 2015 and here an interview to Stig Reinhold one of the most polite person of Kopenhagen Fur who taught me a lot about Chinchilla fur skins. 

There are a maximum of 40 lots. There are two centimetres of difference between the sizes.

Chinchillas are always sold already dressed because they have a very delicate hide and very soft hair.

Denmark produces a special quality: la Bluest Natural Clarity.

Swakara skins by Kopenhagen Fur

Swakara is the name of a specific race of karakul sheep from Namibia. Significantly different from karakul of central Asia, exemplary of quality so excellent they cannot be found in any other part of the world. This makes swakara one of the most sought-after furs in the world. The characteristic of swakara is the curls, that form little holes on the surface of the hair. Characteristic Swakara is flat, silky and elegant. The soft and elastic skin makes the material suitable for producing nearly all clothes, from skirts to jackets.

Seal Great Greenland Skins

Greenland seal furs sold at Kopenhagen Fur are covered by EU regulations on the trade of products deriving from seals. Only seal products hunted by the Inuits can be exchanged. The skins sold at Kopenhagen Fur are provided by the Inuits of Greenland as a by-product of hunting for food. There are several types of seal skins, but the one commonly used for fashion is Harp Seal. This type can be easily recognised by its short, uniform hair and its nearly silky and light surface. Seal skin looks flatter compared to other types of fur, for example mink. Seal skin is waterproof and offers a great resistance to wind and rain.

Here is a post on seal fur and its workings written years ago: 

Regarding the sustainability of seals skins you can click here we have written a very interesting post and I’m working with a brand specialized in seal skins Inuit Fur I advice to see the collection is amazing

Saga Furs Auction House

Saga Furs has been in business for over 100 years, the auction house is in a wood of birches 20 miles from Helsinki. The Design Center of Saga Furs is in Copenhagen.

fur skins grading

Saga Furs is quoted on the stock exchange, it sells around 10 million skins a year with a turnover of 505 million euros.

Saga Furs is the auction closest to fashion brands, specialized in sales of Fox, Finn raccoon and Mink.

The skins come from Finnish farmers and all over Europe. 

The fur grading of Saga Furs 

At Saga Furs grading takes place according to this method: uniformity, size, colour and quality.

The quality levels of Saga Furs are: Saga Furs Lumi Royal, Saga Royal and Saga Superior.

The skins are divided according to the type of skin, selected by size that is measured from the nose to the tip of the tale and finally by degrees of colour. A high number of highly technological machines is used for the first phase of sorting of the skins.

“Grading machines” have been built especially for Saga Furs.

After the selction by size or colour the skins are sorted manually by experts.

Sorting Specialists are trained for many years, each skin is inspected for the thickness and density of the underwool as well as for the quality of the guard hair. The best qualities are marked with Saga Furs labels that are: Saga Furs Lumi Royal, Saga Furs Royal, Saga, Saga |.

Saga Furs Lumi Royal: are skins of the highest quality, the underwool and the guard hair are very thick and resistant. They are silky skins, short napped and of exceptional quality.

Saga Furs Royal: are furs that are of a slightly lower quality than the first but very high level and they are short napped.

Saga: high quality skins, the guard hair and underwool are slightly weaker than Saga Royal. The long nap skins of Saga Furs Royal and Saga all end up under the label Saga.

Saga |: are slightly weaker than Saga but with good commercial value.

Saga ||: is the lowest classification you can give to skins normally used for sales

Many years ago I made a video showing how Saga Furs auction works here is the video (as I have already written before I was not yet experienced in staying in front of the camera, I was just beginning please don’t judge me)

Saga Furs offers: Minks, Foxes, Finnraccoon, Karakul, Chincilla, Rex Chinchilla Rex and Rex Beaver.

The colours of mink from Saga Furs

Black, Mahogany, Brown, Pastel, Violet, Sapphire, Silver Blue, Blue Iris, Black Cross, Silver Cross, Sapphire Cross, Dawn Cross, Pearl Cross, Palomino, Pearl Golden Pearl, Jaguar and White. Clicking here on this link you can find photos with the characteristics  

The grading of mink Saga Furs skins

Sex: males are longer and wider and the hide is thicker compared to females. 

Size: the sizes are 11 in total I will list them: 50 over 101 cm, 40 from 95.1 to 101 cm, 30 from 89.1 cm to 95 cm, 20 from 83.1 cm to 89 cm, 0 from 77.1 cm to 83 cm, 1 from 71.1 cm to 77 cm, 2 from 65.1 to 71, 3 from 59.1 cm to 65 cm from 53.1 to 59 cm, 5 from 47 cm to 53 cm, 6 under 47 cm.

Shading: they are shades of colour that go from black to white. The variations of the shades are Black, 4XDark, 3XDark, 2XDark, XDark, Dark, Medium, Pale, XPale, 2XPale, 3XPale, 4XPale and White.

Quality: Saga Lumi Royal, Saga Royal, Saga and Saga | are the best quality skins. When Saga Royal and Saga present defects like patches or curled hair. They are classified as IA. When Saga | quality presents the same defects as the previous classification they are called IB. 

Clarity: the tone of colours goes from blue to red they are called C1, C2, C3 and sometimes C4.

Saga Furs fox skins

Saga Furs offers the greatest variety of first quality fox in the world.

Here anither video I made in 2015 about Saga Furs 

The most important types of skin are: 

Blue Fox, Blue Shadow Fox, Blue Frost fox (my favourite), Shadow Blue Frost, Arctic Marble Frost, Sapphire Frost Fox, Amber Frost Fox, Golden Island Fox, Fawn Light Fox, Golden Island Shadow, Arctic Golden Island, Silver Fox, Gold Fox, Gold Cross Fox, Cross Fox, Arctic Marble Fox, Smokey Fox, Fire Gold Fox, Platinum Fox, Platinum Gold Fox, Sun Glo Fox and Arctic Marble Fox.

To see the various types of fox with the description visit the Saga Furs website

The classification of fox skins by Saga Furs

Sex: no distinction between male and female is made in the classification process for fox skins. 

Size: the skins are measured starting from tip of the nose to Only Blue Fox and Shadow Fox are available in size 60 above 155 cm. Here below is the drawing to understand sizes taken fom the site of Saga Furs.

Shading: even in the case of fox there are shades of colour that go from black to white, they are 3XDark, 2XDark, XDark, Dark, Medium, Pale, XPale, 2XPale, 3XPale, 4XPale and White

Quality: Saga Royal skins of the highest quality, the underwool and the guard hair are very thick and resistant.. Saga: the skins are of slightly lower quality compared to the previous ones. Saga |: they are high quality with a good commercial value. Defective skins are catalogued as IA if the guard hair is scarse, darker hair on the shoulders or rough hair. IB are Saga skins that present some of the deffects linsted in the IA.

Clarity: the clarity of the colour of fox is divided into four categories that are C1,C2,C3,C4. The lesser the clarity, the more confused the colour. It is important to underline that the characteristics of clarity do not influence the quality of classification of the skins.

Finnraccoon Saga Furs the classification 

Types of Finnraccoon skins: Finnraccoon, Arctic Finnraccoon, White Finnraccoon.

Sex, size, shading, quality and clarity are identical to the classification of fox described above.

As I wrote at the beginning of the post I describe the skins that I believe are most important for more information you can write me an emila or contact the auction houses directly.

finrraccoon saga furs

Sojuzpushnina Auction House

The fur skins grading system of  Sojuzpushnina

 The auction house Sojuzpushnina is in Saint Petersburg in Russia and many years ago it was the most important in the world. 

La Sojuzpushnina has been present on the international market for more than seventy years. The Russian auction offers sable skins and is very famous for the Barguzinsky type, those with silver tips. It also sells marten, lynx, Japanese mink, raccoon, ermine, squirrel, skunk and nutria. All wild skins.

Sojuzpushnina sable auction

Sable is the most prized skin in the world for its characterstics that unite, warmth, lightness and beautiful natural tones. The hair of sable is thick, silky, full of colour, mainly brown with some lines of white like silver wire.

According to the origin, the colours can be more or less dark, going from nearly Extra Dark to golden yellow called in fact Sable Gold. The most precious are the Barguzinsky, the  Yakutsky and the Enisejsky. They are all Russian where the label SOBOL was founded. The classic colour is called  “ingrigito”: a dark brown with slightly white tips- There are other colorings like Taupe, Gold and Blush.

Some more on sable:

sable sobol fur skins grading

Sable is maximum 45 centimetres long, it has a big patch on its throat, yellow/brown or yellow / red while the tip of the tail, between 8 and12 centimetres long, is black.

Males measure 38-56 cm excluding the tale, that instead reaches 9/12 cm. They weigh up to 1800 grams. 

The females reach 35-51 cm with a tail from 7.2 – 11.5 cm

The colours of sable are: SILVERY that comes in different strengths Silvery5, Graphite, Titanium and Mother of Pearl.

I hope this guide about fur skins grading was helpful for you

ADDITIONAL POSTS TO READ:

Fake fur you are not biodegradable 

Fur eco sustainability my update 

Mink Farm video interview of a scientist about welfare of minks and foxes and chinchillas

Photos and all you must know about a mink farm

Samantha

1 Comment

  • I have always believed furs in addition to being beautiful are very complex. It is art, science, imagination and skill all combining to give us a unique and sensual way to express ourselves as we keep warm the natural way! Thank you for sharing your knowledge on this fascinating subject!

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