Online Store

Subscribe to our blog for exotic leather education news

Your email:

Caiman Skin Guide

Follow us for exotic leather educational resources, news updates, new product releases, and more

Pan Am Leathers: Exotic Leather Blog

Current Articles | RSS Feed RSS Feed

Comparing Alligator & Crocodile Skins


Are you about to embark on your next leather project, but aren't sure where to begin? Once you've made a decision on the type of clothing item or accessory you'll create, the next step is selecting the right leather to turn that idea into a reality.

Depending on what you'll be creating, your needs and the size of your budget, you'll have to take into account several features when choosing the perfect animal skin.

To help you make this step easier, we've broken down the essential qualities of the most popular alligator and crocodile skins — including the Nile crocodile, American croc, American alligator, Caiman, Saltwater croc and Siamese croc.

Nile Croc

The Nile crocodile is one of the premier leather materials used for footwear, handbags and other leather products.Native to: Africa

Size: 13-15 feet — can reach up to 26 feet

Quantity: 200,000 famed annually

Fun fact(s): Often compared to American Alligator, but serves as the more affordable alternative

Scales: Large & more square than round in shape

Uses: Footwear (especially cowboy boots), handbags & belts

American Crocodile (Acutus)

The American Crocodile (acutus) is the perfect alternative for a less expensive leather project.Native to: Central America & northern parts of South America

Fun fact(s):

- Largest reptile in the Americas, yet not permitted within the US

- Narrow flank section & wide belly section

Size: About 14 feet — can reach up to 25 feet

Scales: small to medium size

Uses: Zero bone content makes it perfect for soft leather projects — incl. jackets, pants & skirts

American Alligator

American alligator is perfect for simpler projects like belts and small leather goods due to its soft and flexible hide.Native to: American southeast

Size: 8-10 feet — can reach up to 20 feet

Quantity: 200,000 farmed annually

Fun fact(s):

- 4th lower-jaw tooth placed inside their mouth

- Almost faced extinction — but saved through "conservation through utilization" efforts

Uses: Wide tail & flexible skin makes it easy for watch-straps & footwear

Caiman Croc

The Caiman is often compared to the skin of crocodiles, although their skin is softer and significantly less expensive.Native to: Central America & northern South America (mostly Colombia)

Size: 4-6 feet — can reach up to 8 feet

Quantity: 600,000 farmed annually

Scales: medium to large in size

Fun fact(s):

- Caiman is cut for its "hornback" (most crocs are cut almost exclusively for belly skin)

- Contains relatively high bone content, making it rigid & harder to bend

- More affordable than alligator or croc skins (due to bony nature & fragile skin)

Uses: Cowboy boots, structured handbags

Saltwater Croc

Saltwater crocodile leatherNative to: Southeast Asia & South Pacific

Size: Between 13 and 15 feet — can reach up to 32 feet

Quantity: 60,000 farmed annually

Fun fact(s):

- LARGEST reptile in the world

- Belly has NO bone content

Uses: High-end handbags & garments (due to its compelling tile pattern & no bone content)

Siamese Croc

Siamese CrocodileNative to: Southeast Asia

Size: 7-8 feet — can reach up to 13 feet

Quanitity: 60,000 farmed annually

Fun fact(s):

- NOT permitted in US or Europe

- NO bone content

- Often compared to American alligator (due to its supple feel & tiling

Uses: Mostly handbags, accessories & footwear (products where Asian factories have strong expertise)

Find what your looking for on our online store

Learning Exotic Leather: Caiman


The Animal

The Caiman is often compared to the skin of crocodiles, although their skin is softer and significantly less expensive.The caiman crocodilus fuscus is one of four types of commonly traded skins within the Caiman species. It can be found in Central America and in the northern areas of South America — mostly from the country of Colombia.

Caiman are much smaller in size than other crocodiles. The Caiman reaches up to 8 feet in length, but is typically between 4 to 6 feet when fully grown. About 600,000 of these crocodiles are farmed annually.

The Skin

Caiman skin is very different from other crocodile skin. Caiman skin has a very high bone content. In fact, it’s so high that you can see the bone pitting on the scales (which are medium to large sized). Additionally, the skin is much more rigid and harder to bend.

While most other crocodiles are cut almost exclusively for their premium belly skin, the caiman skin is often cut for its back. This cut is referred to as "hornback" because it has the protruding ridges that resemble small horns running down the center.

Using Caiman Crocodile Hide for Your Next Leather Project

The Caiman's leather has a relatively high bone content.Caiman is often used for leather projects on cowboy boots, structured handbags, small accessories, footwear and belts. Due to its fragile skin and bony nature, caiman skins are much more affordable than alligator or crocodile skins of the same size. This makes the caiman a superb alternative for companies with stricter budgets.

For more information on how to maximize your next assignment with this less expensive alternative to fancier hides, get in touch with us. We look forward to helping you select the perfect skin for your next project, so contact us for a FREE project consultation to get started!

Caiman Skin Guide

Learning Exotic Leather: Saltwater Crocodile


The Animal

Saltwater crocodile leather

The Saltwater crocodile (Crocodylus porosus) has its origins in the Asian continent — specifically Southeast Asia and the South Pacific. This crocodile is the largest of all crocodilians and the largest reptile in the world.

The average size of the Saltwater Croc is between 13 and 15 feet, with the largest ones growing up to 32 feet! The number of skins that are farmed every year hover at around 60,000.

The Skin

SaltwaterCrocSkinThe skin of the Saltwater crocodile is considered one of the elite among all crocodilians. Its belly has no bone content due to the absence of floating bones within the area’s skin. The scales are small, however, there are more scales in each row. Its skin contains a single follicle marking at the bottom of each belly scale.

Its belly is relatively narrow compared to the size of its flank. This croc’s large head contains a pair of ridges that run from its eye along the centre of its snout. 

Using Saltwater Croc Hide for Your Leather Project

The skin of the Saltwater crocodile is commonly used for handbags and high-end garments due to its compelling tile pattern and no bone content. As one of the finest grade out of the croc species, its skin can be used for several fashionable items and accessories.

Due to sophisticated farming technique and age-old tanning treatment, many use this high-quality leather on their most luxurious projects. For more on how we can help you select your optimal crocodile leather, set up a FREE project consultant with one of our specialists today

Schedule An Appointment

Learning Exotic Leather: Siamese Crocodile


The Animal

The Siamese Crocodile (Crocodylus Siamensis) is native to Southeast Asia — especially Brunei, Malaysia, Laos, Cambodia, Burma, Thailand, Vietnam, Indonesia and Borneo. The length of this crocodile can reach up to 13 feet, while the average Siamese croc is more likely to be around 7-8 feet. Upwards of 60,000 of this species is farmed annually for their skin.

Siamese Crocodile

The Skin

The Siamese crocodile is a small, freshwater croc with relatively small scales and no bone content. However, trade of Siamese crocodile skin isn’t permitted in the United States or in Europe. 

Using Siamese Crocodile Skin on Your Next Project

Many compare this croc’s supple feel and gorgeous tiling to the American alligator. It has a single follicle marking at the bottom of every individual belly scale like the Nile croc.

Since it is mostly used in Asia (beacuse it is not permitted in the USA or Europe), the skin of the Siamese crocodile is mostly used in handbags, accessories and footwear - product categories in which Asian factories have the most expertise. 

For more information on how to implement Siamese crocodile skin on your next project, be sure to contact one of our experts to assist you!

Free Project Consultation

Learning Exotic Leather: Nile Crocodile


The Animal

The Nile crocodile (Crocodylus niloticus) is native to the African continent, mostly in the central, southern and eastern areas. Its average size ranges from 13-15 feet with the longest of the species reaching lengths of up to 26 feet. Around 200,000 Nile crocodiles are farmed annually.

The Nile crocodile is one of the premier leather materials used for footwear, handbags and other leather products.The Skin

The Nile Crocodile’s skin is often compared to the American alligator because of its low bone content. It is relatively long compared to its width and it has a particularly long, narrow tail.

One of the very distinct features of the skin is the tiny follicle on each of its individual scales. 
The scales on this croc are very large and more square than round towards the corners of the tiles.

Using Nile Crocodile Hide for Your Leather Project

Use Nile crocodile skin on your next project as an alternative to Ameriacan alligator hide or for a tighter texture with better breaks in the skin.Nile crocodile skin is commonly used in footwear (particularly cowboy boots), handbags, belts and small leather goods. 

As one of the premier textures on the market and a top-tier alternative to American alligator skin at a slightly lower price, the Nile crocodile presents a unique set of features for your upcoming designs. And we look forward to supplying the hide to you. For more on how to use Nile crocodile in your next leather project, contact us to set up a FREE project consultation today!

Download the Free Exotic Leather Handbag Guide Now!

Learning Exotic Leather: American Crocodile (Acutus)

The American Crocodile (acutus) is the perfect alternative for a less expensive leather project.

The Animal

The American crocodile (crocodylus acutus), native to Central America and Northern South America, is considered the largest reptile in the Americas. The average size is about 14 feet fully grown and about 180-450 kg (400-1,000 lb.). The largest of these crocodiles can reach lengths of 25 feet and weigh up to 2,000 pounds. 

The Skin

The plates on the acutus skin have no bone. Their belly scales are small-to-medium sized and have small follicle markings that you can find on the belly scales of several other croc species. The acutus crocodile skin has a narrow flank section (in terms of both width and length) and a wide belly section compared to other related species. 

It is worth noting that the acutus crocodile skin is not yet permitted in the USA.  

Using American Croc Hide for Your Leather Project

The lack of bone and relatively wide belly section give the acutus crocodile skin a very clean look and wide usable area, ideal for handbags. Zero bone also make it especially soft and supple for ready-to-wear, like jackets, pants, skirts and other garments. 

As the perfect in-between texture, well-treated crocodile leather can surpass your customers’ expectations, and we’ll proudly be the one to supply it to you. For more on how to implement top-tier American crocodile in your next leather project, set up a FREE project consultation with us!

Download the Free Exotic Leather Handbag Guide Now!

Learning Exotic Leather: American Alligator


Welcome to the second installment of the crocodilian leather series! Here, we’ll tackle the makeup, size and characteristics and leather quality of the American alligator (alligator mississippienis). Native to the American southeast, this gator is found in freshwater habitats as west as Texas and as north as the Carolinas (but predominantly Florida and Louisiana).

American alligator is perfect for simpler projects like belts and small leather goods due to its soft and flexible hide.

The Animal

American alligators can reach lengths upwards of 20 feet and can weigh up to 1,000 pounds! Normally, most of this specie sis about 8-10 feet long, fully grown.

The alligator can be told apart by its tooth placement. Most crocodiles tend to have their fourth lower-jaw tooth placed on the outside when their mouths are closed, but alligators have a place for it inside their mouth. Another tell-tale sign of their difference is with their snouts. Gators will have rounder noses (U-shaped) whereas crocodiles will have sharper, more pointed noses (V-shaped).

Like their crocodile counterparts, the American alligator faced extinction at one point in time. However, due to massive efforts called “conservation through utilization,” we’ve been able to protect them to continue their existence in safer, healthier habitats. About 200,000 of these alligators from farm-raised environments are used for leather projects, whereas 50,000 are collected annually from the wild. 

The Skin

The plates on the alligator skin have relatively little bone. Their belly scales are medium-to-large sized and do not have the follicle marking (single dot) that you can find on the belly scales of several other croc species. The alligator skin has a large flank section (in terms of both width and length) and long and narrow belly section compared to other related species. The tails on alligators also tend to be wider than tails on a similar size crocodile of another specie.

Using Alligator Hide on Your Next Leather Project

The lack of bone and follicle markings on the belly scales give the alligator skin a very clean look, ideal for handbags and luxury accessories. The wider tail also makes the yields attractive for watchtraps and footwear. 

Hipster Cognac Wallet

The availability of lower grade wild skins also makes using alligator skin economically feasible for products like belts and small leather goods that allow you to cut around defects, since lower grade wild skins are typically less expensive per usable area than top grade farmed skins.

No matter the use of your alligator skin, it will likely be an easy process to make your product. The skin of an alligator is soft and very flexible which makes for simple, hassle-free craftsmanship that’s bound to amaze your end consumer.

For more information on alligator skin or any other exotic leather for that matter be sure to contact one of our expert representatives. We’ll give you the full rundown of each and every kind of material to help you select the perfect material of your next leather project!

If you want more information on alligator skin, be sure to download our FREE Alligator Skin Guide right here.

  Find what your looking for on our online store

NEW Exotic Leather Series: Crocodiles!



Did you know over 1 million crocodilian skins are traded internationally among roughly 30 countries? As one of the most sought after skins on the luxury market, the unique and tender skin from both crocodiles and alligators can be seen on high-end handbags, wallets, watches, footwear and more.

American crocodile hide is the perfect alternative to the skin of American alligator.

In our previous posts, we highlighted the nature of each type of python and the special qualities that it brings to the table for buyers. We’ll do the same in this series as we’ll compare the American alligator (mississippiensis), American crocodile (acutus), caiman (fuscus), Nile crocodile (nilotocus), saltwater crocodile (porosus) and Siamese crocodile (siamensis) which are the subsection of the 20+ crocodilian species whose skins are most commonly traded.

During this upcoming series, we'll break down the essential facts for every type of leather buyer. Whether it's alligator or crocodile skins, we'll give you the necessary information so you make a confident, informed decision.

Stay tuned as we'll soon go into detail to discuss animal origins, skin sizes, bone content, scaling patterns, pricing and much, much more!

Free Project Consultation

Comparing the 3 Most Commonly-Traded Python Skins


A python skin handbag created from bleached, back-cut skin.Welcome to our finale on python skins! First, we had a brief overview of the three most commonly-traded python skins, then we had a more in-depth look at each of the three. Today, we’ll be doing some direct comparisons between the three so that you can choose the right type of python skin for you next exotic leather project.

Comparing Measurements

Of the three python skins that are commonly available commercially, the Brongersmai, or short tail python, is the smallest. The average measurement of the short tail python is roughly 1.6 meters in length and 28 cm wide at the center, tapering down to 15 cm wide at the ends. Generally speaking, this means that you can expect to get roughly 5 sq. ft. of hide from the average short tail python skin.

The Burmese python’s hide is much larger than that of the short tail python. On average, the skin of a Burmese python, or python bivitattus, measures 3.25 meters long and is 28 cm wide at the widest point of the belly. When you purchase an average-sized Burmese python skin, you’ll probably get around 10 sq. ft. of hide to work with.

The diamond python’s skin, interestingly enough, has the same measurements as that of the Burmese python’s skin for average length and width at the center. However, the diamond python tends to have a slightly smaller yield per skin than a Burmese python because it tapers more severely from the center to the ends.

Another difference between the three hides is their thickness. The Burmese python has a thinner hide than the other two species of python mentioned here. This makes the hide of a Burmese python easier to flex than the others. Additionally, the Burmese python should be easier to sew, as needles will pass through the thinner hide more easily than they would with the other types of python leather.

Comparing Appearances

Visually, the Burmese python is the most distinctive of the three.The hide of the Burmese python features large, rounded color patterns arrayed in a somewhat random fashion. The hide of the diamond python skin has more geometric, net-like patterns. Another telltale sign that a skin is a Burmese python skin instead of a short tail or diamond python skin is that the Burmese python’s center belly scales are much narrower than those of the other two snake species.

Telling diamond python skin from short tail python skin, on the other hand, can be a little trickier if both skins are bleached. Currently, short tail python skin is only available in a back-cut, bleached style, so skin in that style and cut with wide belly scales could be from either type of python.

The two telltales that a given bleached back-cut skin is from a diamond python rather than a short tail python are:

  1. Length of the hide. Remember, the average short tail python skin is only 1.6 meters in length, whereas a diamond python hide averages 3.25 meters, or double the length.

  2. Tapering of the hide. A diamond python’s skin tapers more severely from the center to the ends than the skins of the other two python species. If you lay down a diamond python hide next to a short tail python hide of equal length, then the diamond python skin will become skinnier noticeably faster than the short tail skin does.

Using these two distinctive factors, you can differentiate a back-cut bleached diamond python hide from a similar short tail python hide.

Types of Projects Each Hide is Suitable for

Elton John made his bed frame using python skin!When choosing between the three kinds of python hide for an exotic leather project, here are a few ideas for project types that each hide might be suitable for:

  • Belts. Any of the python skins can be used for exotic leather belts quite easily. For larger belts, however, Burmese and/or diamond python hides are your best option.

  • Boots/Shoes. For footwear projects, consider using either short tail or diamond python hide for boots and heavy-duty footwear that should be stiff. Burmese python hides can be used for more flexible footwear, as their thinner hide flexes a bit more easily.

  • Furniture. Celebrities such as Elton John have used python hides to add some personality to their furniture and bedding. For such large items, the 3 meter or longer skins of the Burmese or diamond pythons are typically best.

  • Garments. For garment items, Burmese python hides are the best. These skins not only come in the massive sizes needed for garment panels, they also are thinner than the other skins on this list. This thinness is a must for garments, which have to bend and flex with the wearer.

  • Handbags. Any of the three hides might prove suitable for use in handbags. Even the short tail python, being half as long as the others, is still plenty large enough to fill the panels for a handbag project.

  • Luggage. For these large-scale projects, Burmese and diamond-python hides are your best bet to fill the large panels these items require.

  • Wallets and small accessories. If you’re making wallets, any of the python hides can be used to make several such items per hide. However, consider focusing on using short tail python hide if you’re only focusing on small accessory items, especially if you’re trying a new concept and want to experiment.

With any of these python hides, you can rest assured that you’ve got a top-shelf material for creating products that will delight the demanding tastes of your ultra-wealthy clients.

Wondering how you can work python skins into your next exotic leather project? Contact Pan American Leathers today for a free consultation using the link below:

Free Project Consultation

Learning Exotic Leather: Diamond Python Skin


the shapes on a diamond python's back tend be very large and regular compared to the Burmese python.You’ve heard all about the short tail and Burmese pythons in our previous posts, now it’s time to talk about the last, but not least, of the three most-commonly traded python skins: the diamond python.

Another alias by which this type of python is known includes the scientific name of python reticulatus, or the reticulated python. This name is derived from the regular, geometric scale patterns on this python species’ back, as the term reticulatus means “net-like” in Latin (the diamond shapes resemble the pattern of the ropes in a fishing net).


While most commercially-available diamond python skins are about the same length as their Burmese python counterparts, they tend to have less total sq. ft. area.Commonly recognized as the world’s longest snake species, the reticulated python can grow to an astonishing 6.95 meters in length (with one specimen as being 7.67 meters in length).

However, while the reticulated python can grow to be very long, such large specimens are rare. The average commercially-available python reticulatus skin is roughly 3.25 meters in length and 28 cm (11 inches) wide at its widest point tapering down to 15 cm (5.9 inches) at the ends, making it similar to the measurements for the average Burmese python hide.

What separates the measurements of the diamond python from the Burmese python is the fact that the hide of the diamond python does taper more severely than that of the Burmese python. This reduces the total square feet area of the diamond python’s hide in comparison to a Burmese python skin of equal length.

On a side note, this smaller area per skin is typically reflected in the cost of the diamond python, making it less costly per meter than Burmese python hides.


As was noted above, the python reticulatus has a very distinctive pattern of colored scales on its back that resembles the ropes of a fishing net or large playing card diamonds separated by black lines. Unlike the Burmese python, with its rounded, irregular shapes, the patterns on a diamond python are very regular, remaining well-defined on the majority of the hide.

Another thing that makes the diamond python easy to tell apart from the Burmese python is the width of its belly scales. The belly scales of a diamond python are very wide in comparison. This can make the belly scales of the diamond python a great focal point for display in a large item if the hide is a back cut.

Much like the Burmese python, the diamond python is available in both front and back cuts, in bleached or unbleached varieties. Typically, designers who want to emphasize the wide belly scales will want a bleached back cut, while those who want to emphasize the python’s natural scale color pattern will go with an unbleached front cut.

Working with Diamond Python Skins

Many of the tips that you’ve seen in our Burmese python blog post can be applied to working with diamond python skin.

However, when planning out your panels for diamond python hide, keep in mind the fact that diamond python skin tapers more quickly than Burmese python skin. 

When using multiple hides for a large project, it may be possible to use two unbleached back-cut hides side by side if the scale patterns are the same size. However, it is typically easier to use two bleached hides if they are back-cut or simply use a front cut so the plainer belly scales can be matched up.

A well-made diamond python skin product is a true work of art, one that will have ultra-wealthy clients demanding one of their own.

Learn more about how you can work with python skin to create unique, striking, and top-quality exotic leather goods today by requesting a free consultation at the link below:

Free Project Consultation

All Posts