Today, when we think of shagreen, that is often to speak about the one that recovers pieces of Art Déco furniture. Some name it “real shagreen”. It is a sting ray skin with beaded back which is specifically found in the hot waters of the Indo-Pacific Ocean.
Those rays, Dasyatis Sephen, are fished for their flesh. Only the skin of the back is used. Moreover, the round grains are hard but do not have the abrasive characteristics of shark skin.
“Faux shagreen” is the shagreen with small grains. It belongs to the dogfish family. Moreover, their skins being smaller, they are used especially to sheath small objects.
The 20th century: shagreen revival
The beginning of the 20th century brought the use of so subtle a skin up to date. This skin with the round grains with, in its middle, three larger was glorified by Art Déco.
Paul Iribe and his collaborator Clément Rousseau made delicately refined pieces of furniture. Adolphe Chanaux, associated a long time with Jean-Michel Frank, like André Groult and Pierre Legrain, were also personalities of shagreen of these years.
If the shagreen is so appreciated, it is because it borrows various nuances and that is likely to cover any kind of furniture.
The Second World War upset the tastes and decorative priorities. Shagreen fell into oblivion to rise from its ashes in the 1970s, with the passion for Art Déco period.