The difference between real leather and bonded leather is that genuine leather is made from whole pieces of animal hide and bonded leather is made from leftover pieces of an animal hide blended together. Bonded leather is also called reconstituted leather or vinyl. Genuine leather is more expensive than bonded leather and feels harder to the touch. Bonded leather is often coated and polished to make it appear similar to a genuine leather hide.
Bonded leather is less durable than genuine leather hides. Different manufacturers and retailers include different amounts of real leather in the formulation of bonded leather, and bonded leather may contain only very small amounts of real leather pieces.
A bonded leather belt may split in half after light use whereas a genuine leather belt may last for several decades. Similarly, a bonded leather jacket does not provide the same level of protection as a genuine leather jacket in the case of a riding accident.
Genuine leather may be treated in order to reduce blemishes. Top-grain leather refers to leather that is made from the outermost layer of cowhide. Full-grain leather is a type of top-grain leather that still shows all of the natural grain in the hide. A top-grain leather that is not labeled as full-grain is a type of leather that has been blended or buffed to reduce the blemishes in the leather.