Shagreen, popularly called sharkskin, is actually the skin of the sting ray (that’s right–the fish that killed that wild life guy on T.V.) which has been tanned, preferably by Italians, because if we have learned nothing else in this life, they understand leather. Shagreen has been used throughout history for decorative objects (picture frames, compacts, glasses cases, Japanese sword handles). In the early part of the twentieth century the terminally clever French started to cover furniture in it, with Jean Michel Frank in the lead. In cocktail tables it is the equivalent of the perfect black dress, always appropriate. It is extraordinarily durable, each of the small dots that make up its’ beautiful surface is like a small chunk of bone. When used in excess or indiscreetly it immediately makes one hum the theme from Shaft. More examples on the jump.