This singular and valuable leather is a manufacture almost peculiar to Astracan, where it is prepared by the Tartars and Armenians. For making shagreen, only horses' or asses' hides are taken, and it is only a small part from the crupper, along the back, that can be used for this purpose. This is cut off immediately above the tail, in a semicircular form, about 34 inches upon the crupper, and 28 along the back. These pieces are first soaked in water, till the hair is loose, and can be scraped off; and the skin, again soaked, is scraped or shaved so thin, as not to exceed a wetted hog's bladder in thickness, and till all the extraneous matter is got off, and only a clean membranous pelt remains. The piece is then stretched tight on a frame, and kept occasionally wetted, that no part may shrink unequally. The frames are then laid upon a floor, with the flesh sides of the skins undermost, and the grain sides are strewed over with the smooth, black, hard seeds of the alabuta, or goose-foot, (Chinopodium album,) and a felt is then laid upon them, and the seeds trodden in deeply into the soft moist skin; the use of this is, to give the peculiar mottled or roughed surface, for which shagreen is distinguished.
The frames, with the seeds still sticking to the skins, are then dried slowly in the shade, till the seeds will shake off without any violence, and the skin is left a hard, horny substance, with the grain side deeply indented. It is then laid on a solid block, covered with wool, and strongly rasped with two or three iron instruments (the particular forms of which it is unnecessary to describe), till the whole of the grain side is shaved, so that the impression of the seed is very slight and uniform. The skins are then softened, first with water and then with a warm alkaline lye, and are heaped warm and wet upon each other, by which means the parts indented by the impression regain much of their elasticity; and having lost none of their substance by paring, rise up fully to the level of the shaved places, and thus form the prominent grains, or the granular texture peculiar to shagreen: the skin is then salted and dyed. The beautiful green dye is given by soaking the inner or flesh side of the skin with a saturated solution of sal ammoniac, strewing it over with copper filings, rolling it up with the flesh side inwards, and pressing each skin with a considerable weight, for about 24 hours, in which time the sal-ammoniac dissolves enough of the copper to penetrate the skin with an agreeable sea-green colour: this is repeated a second time, to give the colour more body.