The craft of so-called gilt leather, Moorish in origin, was developed in Europe in the early Middle Ages. Tanned hides were cut into standard sizes, covered with silver foil and varnished to give a golden gloss (the yellow varnish caused the silver to look gold). It was a Dutchman who invented the technique of embossing thin sheets of gilt leather on wood press-molds in the early seventeenth century. Long vertical pieces of gilt leather were in vogue as wall hangings in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries. The Dutch East India Company brought samples to Japan, at first as gifts for the shogun and other dignitaries and then for private trade. The Japanese had no use for wall covering, of course, but they cut up pieces to make exotic-looking tobacco pouches, drawstring purses and small boxes and screens, among other things. As demand increased, the imports, called kinkarakawa (gold Chinese leather), were imitated by the leather craftsmen of Himeji, a city famous for the production of white leather.
Imported gilt leather was used for various parts of suits of armor in the Edo period, including shoulder guards and breast plates.