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Comparing Exotic Leathers: American Alligator vs. Caiman Skins


Pan American Leathers is dedicated to bringing top-notch service along with the best exotic leathers.When it comes to high-fashion handbags and other items, exotic leathers are at the highest end of luxury. One of the most popular materials for the fashion-conscious is the supple, luxurious hide of the American alligator. Hailing from the Southeast USA and frequently harvested from farm-bred gators as well as from wild animals, American alligator skin is a classic, durable and versatile leather.

However, alligator skin is not the only crocodilian species used for high fashion. Caiman crocodiles are also used in the fashion industry by many. Hailing from South America and Central America, the caiman crocodile’s skin is taken only from farms.

While both skins are very desirable for high fashion, they are not the same. These two crocodilian species might be distant cousins, but they each have unique characteristics.

Characteristics of Alligator Skin

Alligator skin is very soft and supple, perfect for luxury items.Of these two species of reptile, the American alligator’s hide is the softer and more pliable material. This is because the skin of this reptile is less bony than the skin of the caiman.

This softness makes the alligator’s skin easier to work with than the skin of other reptiles, making it easier to work with for cutting, stitching and folding. In addition to making it easy to work with, the softness of alligator skin means that it feels much more supple to the touch than other reptile skins. The top global fashion powerhouses take advantage alligator skin to make a variety of ultra luxury products like belts, furniture, garments, handbags and wallets.  

Another result of the lack of bone in alligator skin is that it is easier to give them a very smooth, even dye. Without the presence of calcium-rich deposits in the skin, dyes that are applied to a gator’s hide have the chance to be evenly distributed, which makes getting a uniform color into the hide less complicated. When you need to work multiple hides to have a uniform coloration in a large object, such as a piece of luggage, the cleanness and smoothness of an alligator’s scales could be considered one of alligator leather’s biggest advantages over caiman skin.

Speaking of luggage and other large items, the American alligator skins available in the marketplace can be much larger than the caiman crocodile. In fact, it is not uncommon for alligator hides to exceed 10 feet long. So, for items with large panels, you can get large alligator skins so that you don’t have to do as much cutting and seaming as you would with the hide of a smaller skin, such as a caiman crocodile.

Characteristics of Caiman Crocodile Leather

Caiman hides are more rigid, holding their form under tough conditions.While caimans might be cousins to the American alligator, the hides of the two animals are worlds apart. For starters, caiman hides tend to be stiffer than alligator hides. This is because the caiman has distinctive calcium rivets in the center of each scale. These calcium deposits also give the caiman’s scales a patterned effect that is not seen in alligator hides, one that may even persist through the dyeing process.

Another key characteristic that separates caiman skins from alligator skins is their size. Caimans are rarely farmed to larger than 3-4 feet long while several alligator farms grow their animals larger. In addition, wild caiman skins are not available in the marketplace; whereas there are tens of thousands of wild alligator skins available each year, ranging from three feet to 15 feet long. This often means that for projects with larger panels, you will have to use more hides, do more stitching, and generally perform more work overall.

While the boniness of the caiman hide might lead some to regard it as being less useful or lower-quality, there are benefits to using this material. For starters, the skin of a caiman tends to be more structured than softer hides. For those who want to emphasize the natural qualities of the animal’s skin, the caiman skin is also a definite plus.

Caiman skin is used by brands in high luxury – just not quite ultra luxury like the alligator skin. Handbags and cowboy boots and other ladies’ footwear are common uses for the caiman skin.

Differences in Cost

Whenever you’re shopping for caiman and alligator skin, you may notice that there is typically a very large price difference between the two. Alligator skin is easier to work with and considered more luxurious than the caiman skin for the reasons detailed above, so both manufacturers and the consumer people will pay a substantial premium for it compared to the caiman’s skin. It is not uncommon for a caiman skin to be priced at a fraction of the cost of a comparable alligator skin.

For more information about caiman and alligator hides, or any other exotic leather, be sure to ask an expert today. Pan American Leathers has been a trusted tannery for major fashion houses for over 30 years. 

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Tips and Tricks Every Designer Should Know when Using Exotic Leather


Pan American Leathers is a proud provider of premium quality exotic leather.Using exotic leather materials in your designs, such as alligator skin, python skin and stingray skin can add endless amounts of personality to your work and create something that is truly one-of-a-kind. Beyond that, exotic leathers offer a whole new world of design opportunities to inspire you and impress clients.

However, it is important to remember that not only are exotic leathers different from traditional cowhide leather visually, they each have special properties that need to be taken into consideration when crafting items from these beautiful materials. To help out, we’ve assembled a few tips and tricks for working with exotic leathers to make sure that your next design is perfect.

Tips for Stingray Skin

Stingray hide is both visually striking and durable.Stingray leather is a very strong and durable material for crafting with. The tiny, pearl-like calcium deposits in the skin are attractive and create a strongly-textured appearance that can be used to great effect in your designs. Unlike cowhide, the fibers in the skin run in random directions and often crisscross with each other, making the skin very difficult to tear. In short, stingray leather is a very durable material.

While the durability of stingray skin means that the final product that is made from it will be durable and long-lasting, this very toughness can frustrate craftsmen who are not experienced in handling this material. We have heard many stories of first-time handlers bending or breaking sewing machines, needles, dies and blades on stingray skin. Yet, this is a situation that is very avoidable, and no, you don’t have to splurge on diamond-tipped needles.

With stingray, a little preparation goes a long way. You can use a dremel on the areas you intend to sew to smooth them out, creating a stitching line to reduce the chances of your sewing machine’s needle hitting a hard calcium pearl.

The toughness and damage resistance of stingray hide makes the ideal material for a leather surface that will see a lot of abuse, such as a custom leather tabletop. The calcium deposits in a stingray skin make it incredibly scratch resistant, and as an aquatic hide, the skin is naturally resistant to moisture, meaning that it can take the occasional drink spill like a champ.

When designing around the use of a stingray skin, remember that skins larger than 13” wide are hard to come by, and as such can be pricey. Rather than making large panels from a single skin, try buying several smaller skins to fill out your larger panels.

Tips for Alligator Skin

We keep a large stock of alligator skins on hand.Alligator skin is a wonderful material that is surprisingly versatile. The common misconception with alligator hide is that their skins would be too hard and rigid to work with, since the animals are famous for their toughness. However, first-time users of a properly-tanned alligator skin find these leathers to be surprisingly soft and supple. This is largely because the skin of the American alligator is less bony than the skins of other crocodile species.

Alligator skin is a great exotic leather for large furniture pieces that involve cushions, such as sofas, chairs, or even bedding. Use the belly for the large square panels and the tail for the longer panels. The square tile shapes on the scales of the belly and the longer rectangular tile shape on the scales of the tail compliment these placements well. Then you can use the head to for small accents and trim.

Tips for Python Hides

The natural coloration of a python's hide is beautiful, but you don't necessarily have to keep it because these hides can be bleached easily.Python skin is a very interesting material when it comes to making interior designs stand out. The skin of a python is very textured and scaly in appearance, making it very recognizable and distinctive.

However, you don’t have to use the natural patterns of a python’s skin, you can always get the markings of the python bleached and recolored to match your needs so that the final design can mesh without you having to completely rework your original color scheme around the python’s scale pattern (although that can produce some really jaw-dropping designs).

These skins tend to be long and narrow. However, with bleached python skin, you can easily work multiple hides together into a single piece for projects that require multiple skins in a single panel because of their width.

Also, with python skin, you can get either a back-cut or a front-cut, depending on whether you want to emphasize wide scales or the natural markings of the python’s back at the center of the panel.

Some Helpful Advice for All Types of Skins

While the toughness, flexibility, and patterns on each type of exotic leather will vary greatly, there are a few helpful tips that can be useful for most any exotic leather purchase:

  1. If your project requires large panels, consider if you’ll be better off purchasing a single, large grade 1 skin for each panel, or if several smaller skins would work. If money’s no object and the client requires as few seams as possible, the larger skins are definitely a good thing. However, clever work in designing the look of your project to work with panels that use multiple skins can make your piece truly unique.
  2. For really small panels, consider purchasing larger grade 2 skins and working around flaws or defects. Are you crafting a tiny, 3” jewelry box to sit atop a dresser? Double-check the prices of small grade 1 skins and larger grade 2 skins when ordering, you may be able to get multiple panels for small objects out of the larger skin for less total cost.
  3. Consider the size of your order when choosing to order from a tannery or a distributor. If your order is very small, a tannery will attach a surcharge to your order to cover their setup costs. A very large order, on the other hand, may end up costing more from a distributor than a tannery (because of the distributor’s mark-up).

No matter what exotic leather you use, it never hurts to make sure that you get the most out of your exotic leather purchase by discussing your project with an expert in the use of exotic leathers before you place your order. 

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Famous Exotic Leather Projects


Recently, we’ve talked about a few ideas for exotic leather-based interior design projects, but what notable designers and studios have made their popular projects out of exotic leathers? Not just handbags, shoes, and other common uses, but large centerpiece items that become the highlight of a design project.

To help inspire your next big project, we’re listing a couple of design projects by some major contemporary designers and design companies that made them.

Martyn Lawrence-Bullard:

Elton John's famous Python skin bed as made by Martyn.A former actor from Kent, Martyn Lawrence-Bullard is now a big name in Hollywood circles, having done designs for famous clients such as Elton John and Cher.

Big-name celebrities like Elton John are always looking to obtain homes and living spaces that not only stand out, but really speak to their personalities. This is one of the reasons why designers such as Martyn Lawrence-Bullard use exotic leather in their designs.

When designing Elton John’s Python-skin bedframe, Martyn decided to use the elegant and luxurious skin of the python to create a one-of-a-kind bedframe that not only stood out from the traditional bed, but also spoke to his client’s unique personality and sense of style.

Martyn’s choice to keep the natural colors of the python’s scales intact was a truly inspired choice. The natural coloration of the python skin actually meshes with the flooring well, without clashing with color of the walls.

TopCar Premium Auto-Tuners:

This beautiful luxury car interior is both extravagant and tastefully stylish.Of course, interior decoration can be for more than the home. TopCar, a premium auto-tuner company based out of Russia, has been creating top-of-the-line modifications and interior decorations for high-end cars for years now.

One of their recent pieces of luxury work involved creating custom alligator skin interiors for the Mercedes-Benz S600 Guard line of cars. These cars, which are designed to cater to the needs of the rich and powerful, boast bullet-proof glass, an armored frame, and an outwardly-plain look.

The modest exterior of these cars is meant to avoid drawing attention, but just because the outsides of these vehicles are plain doesn’t mean that the insides have to be. As shown on luxury article sites such as, the interior design of the S600 can be quite luxurious, once a top-rate designer has had the chance to rework it.

The deep browns of the alligator skin compliment the lighter tans of the rest of the luxury leathers and the rich gold decorations well, providing a color contrast that still fits in the overall color scheme. Overall, the alligator skin highlights in this vehicle have transformed the interior into something truly luxurious, beautiful, and unique.

Build a Better Interior with Exotic Leather

Alligator leather is a truly remarkable way to bring an exotic touch to your designs.Using exotic leather in your interior design can make your project really stand out and attract attention, whether you’re designing for a home, an office, a car, a motorcycle, a yacht, a jet or whatever else. Not only are exotic leathers such as alligator and python skin attractive, they are highly effective as status symbols.

Design clients love to feel like they’re getting the royal treatment, and exotic leather can provide that feeling in spades. These durable and beautiful leathers are a great addition to your interior design that clients will love. Make your next interior decoration job one that your clients won’t forget by creating something unique and gorgeous out of exotic leather.

To learn more about how you can create with exotic leather, or for help with your order, contact us today. Pan American Leathers, Inc. has been helping designers with their exotic leather projects for years, which includes some of the world’s leading fashion and design houses. Our team of leather experts has the experience and the know-how to help you make the most out of your next exotic leather purchase.

Free Project Consultation

What Affects Alligator Skin Price?


tanning vatsJust like every other good that you can purchase, there are various factors that can affect the price of alligator skin. Mostly, it’s about supply and demand. However, there are other considerations that you’ll need to take into account when you’re buying (and paying for) alligator skin.

Supply and Demand Factors

Day to Day Factors

In normal market conditions, the most influential supply and demand variables affecting the price of alligator skin are grade and size. The 40-60 cm skins with the fewest defects are the most sought after for handbags, garments, etc.; yet they are the hardest to come by. Large alligator skin comes from the wild. The larger the skin, the older the animal and thus the more it endured (scars, scratches, bites from fighting, feasting and general wear). So skins that are large in size are rarely in pristine condition. The few that are command top dollar in the marketplace.

Environmental Conditions

Like any other game, alligators are subject to environmental conditions and disasters. For instance, when Hurricane Katrina ripped through Louisiana in 2005, it destroyed the alligators’ habitat causing dramatic effects on their population from eggs to feeding patterns. Naturally, this affects the supply of alligator skin from the not only from the wild – but also from the farms. Farmers collect alligator eggs from the wild (approximately 14% of the alligators are returned to the wild at a certain age to conserve their population). This means that the disaster that immediately and harshly affected the wild population affects the farms a few years later.

Katrina is a dramatic example. More normal shifts in annual weather patterns can also affect the availability of alligators. In fact, prices for wild alligator skin typically reset every year after the wild season.

Cost Factors

Naturally, a tannery will charge more for an alligator skin that costs more to produce. For example, basic finishes like matte and glazed are typically the least expensive. On the other hand, specialty finishes that require more work, expensive chemicals or additional materials command a higher price. For example, shaving a skin to a thin, garment weight requires more time than shaving it to a heavier weight, say for handbags. Alligator skin with pearlized finishes requires chemicals that are very expensive versus the materials required to finish a matte skin. These types of costs are passed through to the customer, but they are relatively small compared to the other factors affecting price.

To some extent, these factors are supply and demand driven as well. There are only a handful of tanneries worldwide that can make certain specialized products. So if you really want a special product, you have to pay that premium price because you really can’t go anywhere else to get it.

In the case that alligator skin needs to be made to order, the number of skins ordered per product will greatly affect the price. A lot of the work that goes into producing alligator skin is set up, like mixing chemicals or dyes, setting water temperatures, etc. Whether the tannery makes one alligator skin or 100 skins, the set up time is about the same. As a result, tanneries will typically apply substantial surcharges for smaller orders.

Just remember to keep these factors in mind when you’re buying your alligator skin, as these factors (and more) can move prices. If you have any questions, feel free to contact us!


Where to Buy Alligator Skin


Alligator SkinsIf you’ve been reading our blog, the information is fresh in your mind on how we tan the alligator skin you use in your products as well as how to select a skin for your needs. However, you might be wondering where you go about buying alligator skins. We sell them, certainly; but you might be wondering about other options and what they offer you. We’re not the only providers of alligator skin. So below, we lay out the alligator skin supply landscape for you.


Distributors are exactly what it sounds like: they buy skins from tanneries, warehouse them and distribute them to buyers. They keep a large stock on hand which is convenient for a buyer in a time crunch. However, for them to make money, they have to mark it up and charge you higher prices.

Also, their selection is limited. If you’re looking for a specific alligator skin that they don’t have, you’re out of luck—or you’ll need to go with an alligator skin you didn’t really want. Even if the distributor can source you what you want, it’ll typically be at a premium price with long deliveries and often doesn’t come out exactly how you want. When you buy directly from us, you cut out the middleman, eliminating the distributor mark up and allowing yourself the product flexibility and direct communication that you need.


Here’s the big one. We’re not the only tannery in the market for alligator skin. However, we are one of the only remaining independent alligator skin tanneries worldwide – meaning we are not owned by one of the major fashion houses. Being owned by a fashion house creates a huge conflict of interest for these tanneries as they market their alligator skin to brands outside of their corporate family. These tanneries typically charge very high prices and gain insight into their competition—you! We have no conflict of interest.

Another major issue with the tanneries is that they’re mostly outside the US. As alligator skin is classified as a wildlife product, it’s subject to both US Customs and the Fish and Wildlife review which can take time. As a result, deliveries from foreign alligator skin tanneries are commonly several months. On the other hand, we tan and finish our skins here in the United States, which means that we can ship domestically with less delay while still fully complying with all US Fish and Wildlife requirements, including full documentation and proper tagging. That means much faster deliveries without cutting corners. Communication is easy and clear as there are less time zone complications and no language barrier. In addition, we can provide much better service. For example, we can work with customers in person to develop product lines and make product adjustments in a matter of days.


Your manufacturer will sometimes offer to source the alligator skin for you. This is a good option because they know exactly what they need to make what your products. Just make sure that they don’t overbuy so they can be less diligent about the cutting. Because then you end up paying for more skin than you actually needed.

With that said, we respect our competitors very much. They are good at what they do and have been a positive force in our industry for a long time. We simply want you to know why we believe we can serve you better.  

If you’re curious about any of the benefits of working with us or need some alligator skin, feel free to give us a call at (978) 741-4150 x2 or email us at!

How To Size And Buy Alligator Skins


skin hanging on rackIf you’re here on this site, something about alligator skin appeals to you, whether you’re an aficionado of alligator skin or a designer or manufacturer looking for a supply. However, you might not be a veteran alligator skin buyer just yet. Perhaps you’re just starting or you’re looking for more information regarding how you might go about purchasing alligator skin. We’re here to help.

What Are The Grading Standards?

The most important factors to consider in buying alligator skin are grade and size. Let’s start with grading. The following are common grading standards:

Divide the belly of the alligator skin into four imaginary quadrants:

  • Grade I: No defects on any quadrant
  • Grade II: Defects on one quadrant
  • Grade III: Defects on two quadrants
  • Grade IV: Defects on three quadrants

Defects are commonly holes, scars and scratches. A common misconception is that if you buy a grade III or IV skin, your finished products will have defects on the skin. This is not the case. A manufacturer experienced in working with alligator skin will cut around the defects so that your finished product will only include defect-free panels.

Grade I/II alligator skin usually makes garments, watchstraps, handbags, upholstery and luggage. Grade II/III alligator skin is usually used in shoes, wallets and boots. Grade III/IV alligator skin tends to be used for belts, and small accessories where manufacturers can cut small panels around the defects.

What About Size?

Sizing is also important to the buying process. Alligator skin is measured in centimeter width at the widest point of the belly. Depending on width of the skin, you’ll be able to make different goods using the various grades of the alligator skin. In the 20-29 cm range, you can make watchstraps, shoes, and smaller goods. From 30-34 cm, you can make small handbags, boots, and larger wallets. From 35-39cm, you can make garments, medium-sized handbags, and other medium-size accessories like tablet cases. From 40-59cm, you move into garments, larger handbags and belts. Alligator skin larger than 60 cm is most commonly used for luggage and larger upholstery.

Now, you might be curious to know what the price of these skins is going to be. Well, it is fairly logical: the most expensive alligator skin is the large grade I skins. The least expensive are the smallest, lowest grade. Another small price consideration is what color and finish you’ll be applying to the alligator skin. Will you need a specialty finish like a metallic, pearl or iridescent? Do you want a light color like yellow, pink or white? These types of products typically have small surcharges attached to them, as it is more work. 

Lastly, remember that availability can also affect prices. As with any natural products, alligator skin supply is vulnerable to weather and other things out of our control.

If you have any more questions or would like to price out some skins for a project you’re working on, feel free to contact us. We’re ready to help!

How We Tan Alligator Skins


alligator skin leatherSome of you might be interested in learning a bit about the tanning process for our alligator leather. Tanning is essentially the transition of a raw skin into a leather, without which the skin would be susceptible to decomposition and bacteria. The process involves these steps:

  • Dry salting as a preservative measure
  • Beamhouse operations:
    • Soaking to clean the skins
    • Liming to descale them
    • Deliming to raise the acidity
  • Pickling to remove bone matter
  • Chrome tanning to convert the material into inorganic material
  • Shaving to degrease and thin out the leather
  • Re-tanning to re-soften the leather for working
  • Drying (either by hang-drying or by toggling)
  • Dry cleaning
  • Coloring
  • Shaving to prepare the leather for the product
  • Applying the finishing touches

The Beginning Steps

When we receive the skins from the suppliers, they're boardy and extremely susceptible to the elements. They arrive salted which removes the water from the skins and preserves them until we can work them. The first stage of the process is the beaming. First, we soak the skin in water to clean the skins, remove the salt, and rehydrate the skin so that we can begin working them.

The Tanning Process

After that, we move onto liming which removes scales, nails, mucins, and natural greases and fats. It also splits the fibers and makes the collagen in the skin workable. Next, we delime the skin to raise the acidity after the liming lowers it. The next phase is the pickling which is an acid bath that helps break down the bones and calcium in the alligator skin so that it is more pliable. After the pickling process comes the chrome bath which makes the skin durable and no longer susceptible to the elements. Once this is done, it is no longer an organic skin; it has become inorganic leather at this point.

Finishing Touches

After this, we re-tan the leather, this time using vegetable-based products. This is done so that the tougher skin that results from the initial tanning process is made supple again. We then either hang-dry or "toggle" (which uses a special type of oven to evaporate the water) to remove the water and humidity. From there, the finishing process begins, where we dye the leather, shave it down to the required thickness and weight for the application, and finish it with seasons and protective coats so that it feels good, looks good, and is protected from the elements. From there, it goes onto the manufacturer where they turn it into the garments, footwear, furniture, handbags, etc. that you're all familiar with.

That is the basic overview of our tanning process, and we hope that it has been both informative and interesting to you. If you have any questions about anything in here, please feel free to comment below, and if you have any other inquiries, don't hesitate to contact us.

The History Of Alligator Skin Tanning


Alligators have been harvested for some two hundred years. Alligators were first harvested in Louisiana in great numbers in the early 1800's. These alligators were harvested for their skins which were used to make boots, shoes and saddles, and for their oil used to grease steam engines and cotton mills. The demand decreased when the leather made from the skins was thought not to be durable. In the mid 1800's the demand for alligator skins increased again. These skins were used to make shoes and saddles for the Confederate troops during the Civil War.

History Of Alligator Skin Tanning

The Rise Of Commercial Alligator Skin Tanning

In the late 1800's and early 1900's, commercial tanning processes began in New York, New Jersey and Europe. Because this process made the alligator skins soft, durable and more pliable, the demand for alligator leather increased dramatically. By the mid 1900's Louisiana’s alligator population had been significantly reduced. In 1962 the alligator hunting season was closed statewide due to low numbers. The reduction in numbers was a result of non-regulated harvests. Detrimental harvest practices included overharvesting (today harvest quotas are set annually for each property currently hunted), non-selection of sexes which often resulted in overharvesting females (males currently comprise approximately 70% of adult alligators harvested) and no closed season, allowing hunting to coincide with nesting, which resulted in the harvest of future populations by harvesting females before they could release hatchlings from the nest or even begin nesting (current seasons are conducted in September after nesting). In 1967, the alligator was put on the endangered species list. By 1971, when the Crocodile Specialist Group began, all 23 species of crocodilian were endangered or threatened.

Alligator Farming Efforts Increase Alligator Population

In an effort to restore the animal and the industry, researchers at Rockefeller Refuge in Louisiana developed a revolutionary program of alligator farming/ranching that removes eggs from the wild, incubates and hatches them, and then, two years later, returns between 14% and 17% of those hatchlings to the wild. Upon return, they are between three and six feet in length, healthy, and capable of defending themselves in the marsh. As a result, the percentage of returns (i.e. 14%) is greater than the survival rate for eggs left in the marsh. In 1972 the alligator season was opened only in Cameron Parish and lasted 13 days. Other parishes were gradually added until the season became statewide in 1981. Louisiana’s wild and farm alligator harvests currently exceed 300,000 animals annually, while the population level (based on aerial nest surveys) remains stable.

Due to the success of this "conservation through utilization" program, the alligator was removed from the endangered species list in 1987. This program also set an example that inspired similar sweeping changes in the crocodile locales across the globe. So much so that by 1996, one-third of all crocodile species were sufficiently abundant to support well-regulated annual harvests and one-third of the species were no longer in danger of extinction but are not harvested. No other group of vertebrate animals has undergone such a dramatic improvement in its conservation status.

Source: IUCN-SSC Crocodile Specialist Group (CSG)

Source: Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES)

Source: Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries

How To Pick The Right Alligator Skin For Your Handbags


Alligator Skin For HandbagsOur handbag customers frequently ask us to help them pick the right alligator skin for their handbags. The first thing we need to know is the dimensions of the main panels (usually two same-sized panels: front and back).  Our customer will usually provide those dimensions in inches, for example, 15” wide by 12” tall. We then convert that to centimeters (multiple the inches measurement by 2.55) which in this case would be approximately 39 cm wide by 31 cm tall. The larger of these dimensions (39 cm in this case) will dictate the size of the alligator we need.  We take 39 cm and add 15% to be safe and we get 44 cm. This means we need one 44 cm or larger skin for the front panel and one for the back panel. Typically, handbags customers don’t want any defects on those panels so the alligator skin should be grade 1 or 2. The alligator skin bellies are used for the two main panels and the alligator skin tail and head are used for the gussets, the bottom, the handles and other adornments.

How Skins Are Measured For Leather Clutches

On smaller bags like clutches, the front and back is sometimes made of one alligator skin panel with no seams to break it up. In that case, we need the dimensions of that whole single panel – NOT front and back separately. First, measure the width edge to edge as usual. Then use a tape measure to wrap from the top of the bag on one side (under the bag) to the top on the other side. These dimensions are usually approximately 10” wide by 10” long which converts to approximately 26 cm wide by 26 cm long. Add 15% and you get 30 cm by 30 cm. So in this example, you need one 30 cm or larger skin. Again, the belly is used for the main panel and the head and tail for everything else.

There are other ways like using large, low grade skins, which at times can be more cost effective. But typically this only works if the design calls for multiple smaller panels seamed together as opposed to fewer, larger panels.

Note Of Caution: This is meant to be a general guide and may not apply to every project. We insist that you work with a manufacturer who has extensive experience with alligator skin and double check with them to make sure you are getting the right alligator skin.

A 4 Point Checklist For Choosing The Ideal Alligator Skin For Handbags And Clutches

  1. What are the dimensions of your main panel(s)?
  2. Convert those dimensions to cm by multiplying the inches by 2.55.
  3. Add 15% to arrive at the minimum size alligator you can use for the main panel.
  4. How many panels do you have to cover in that size? That is how many alligator skins you will need in the minimum size discovered in step 3.  

And as always, if you have any questions about exotic skins for leather, do not hesitate to contact us.


How To Pick The Right Alligator Skin For Boots And Shoes


The Importance Of Two Skins Per Pair Of Boots Or Shoes

Alligator Skin BootWhen you are picking alligator skins for footwear, it’s essential that you know several things going in before you make your decision. Alligator skins for shoes and boots are typically ordered in pairs. Even if you’re simply making one pair of boots or one pair of shoes, the job requires two skins. From that pair of alligator skins, one pair of vamps will be cut from the bellies and one pair of vamps will be cut from the tails. The rest of the alligator skin can be used for the foxing and the rest of the shoe or boot.

Additionally, both vamps in your pair of shoes or boots should be cut from similar parts of the alligator’s belly or tail. For example, if you cut one vamp from the top of one belly, you should cut the other vamp in the pair from the top of the other belly. The same goes for the vamps cut from the tails. Otherwise, you will have different scaling size and patterns on each vamp. Ideally, you’re looking for consistency of pattern. It’s one of several distinguishing traits of fine alligator skin footwear.

Getting Specific: Alligator Skin Grades And Sizing

It is perfectly acceptable to use grade 2 or grade 3 skins for boots or shoes as long as the defects on each pair of skins are on a similar portion of the belly or tail. Remember, you’re looking for design consistency.

As far as skin sizes go, shoes usually require alligator skin that is 25-34cm wide. Boots usually require alligator skin that is 30-36 cm wide. Again, grade 2 or 3 is ok as long as you can pair off where the defects are on each skin.

Alligator Skin Sizing

Occasionally, low-grade 45-55 cm skins are used to get better yields. The same basic concepts apply. However, the scales will be much larger.

There’s a bit of difference in the process when you are using the alligator skin for the whole leg of the boot.  Refer to the process described in our handbag section to determine the skin you will need to cover this section of the boot.

Contact Pan American Leathers For An Appointment At Our Showroom

If you and your clientele insist on only the best luxury exotic skins, we’ll be happy to show you varying sizes and grades of alligator skin at our New York showroom. Feel free to make an appointment with us.

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