Crocodile skin is a luxurious, supple material that is very much in demand in the fashion industry. With high-fashion crocodile handbags selling for tens or even hundreds of thousands of dollars, getting the manufacture of your crocodile skin right is incredibly important for impressing ultra-wealthy clients. With this in mind, we’ve assembled a few short tips for making crocodile skin handbags that should be helpful.
Tip #1: Choosing Your Crocodilian Species
There are a few dozen different species of crocodiles in the world, a few of which are commonly used for leather. Three of the most popular are:
The caiman crocodile.
The Nile crocodile.
The American alligator (it’s a member of the order crocodilia under the scientific classification).
With handbags, you generally want to have a flexible material to use for the bag. The caiman crocodile has the boniest skin, rendering it less flexible and harder to work with, while the American alligator has very little boniness to it at all, making the most flexible and easiest to work with. Nile crocodiles fall in between these two extremes, having some calcium deposits, but not nearly as much as caiman crocodiles do.
This boniness also affects how well each species of crocodile will take to being dyed, so keep that in mind as well. Bonier hides are tougher to dye evenly, while less bony hides are easy to dye.
Tip #2: Choosing the Size and Grade of Hides
With handbags, you’ll need to use very large, clean panels of skin for each bag. High-fashion handbag customers want only top-quality workmanship and materials, so top-grade skins will be the most desirable. In most cases, you will need a nearly flawless, grade I skin to get the best results.
For small handbags, the crocodile hide should be at least 30 to 34cm wide. Medium-sized handbags generally need 35 to 39cm wide skins, and large handbags take 40 to 50cm wide grade I skins. If flaws in the skin are kept to the extreme edges of the hide, you might be able to use a grade II skin that is oversized.
Tip #3: Using Scraps for Straps
If the layout of your panels leaves you with excess hide, use that extra skin to make the carry strap, gussets, interior details and other odd parts. This can save you a large amount of money on buying extra skins, and gives you accents that will perfectly match the handbag they are attached to.
If you don’t have enough excess material to do this, consider buying smaller, grade II or III skins to make into carry straps. With these straps, it’s easier to work around flaws in the hide, as long as they aren’t extra-wide. When buying hides specifically for straps, make sure that they’re the same type of cut (belly or hornback, for example) and come from the same dye lot as the ones being used for the bags themselves.
Tip #4: Preparing Sewing Lines
When working with bonier hides such as caiman or Nile crocodile skins, be sure to prepare sewing lines with a dremel or other tool to thin the hide and prevent calcium deposits from bending or breaking your needles. In the long run, taking a few minutes to prepare sewing lines will actually save you time and frustration on fixing up your sewing machines and replacing needles every other motion.
To learn more about using crocodile leather for handbags, contact Pan American Leathers today!
As many designers know, the market for high-fashion handbags and other accessories is an intensely competitive market. With so many major fashion houses out there with such a strong grip on the market, it can be difficult for any single fashion designer to stand out.
However, difficult is not impossible.
With the right design, a lot of hard work, and some top-quality materials, you can make a gorgeous handbag that high-fashion aficionados will covet for their own collection. What is a top-quality material for handbags, you ask? One example of a top-of-the-line material for handbags would be American alligator skin.
Why would you want to work with alligator skin? It is a top-rate material for handbags, with a price point to match, which may make it prohibitively expensive for some. However, the exclusivity is part of the allure.
What are the benefits of working with alligator skin as opposed to plain cowhide? Read on and see.
Benefit #1: It’s Visually Distinctive
With an alligator hide, your final product has a built-in texture from the natural scale pattern of the alligator. This adds visual pop that helps to set the bag apart from ordinary cowhide and catches the attention of high-fashion accessory lovers.
Benefit #2: It’s a Very Exclusive Material
Alligator skin is prohibitively expensive, which makes it very exclusive. Ultra-wealthy clients wait for years for their orders with the big fashion houses to be filled, and/or pay exorbitant sums for used bags from private collections because so few of these bags are available and the demand for them is so high, which brings us to our next point…
Benefit #3: It’s Highly Sought After
Top-end fashion clients love buying things made from top-end materials, and alligator skin is a top end material. When fashion clients buy alligator skin handbags, they’re coming in prepared to spend top dollar, making alligator skin handbags a very lucrative venture for any up-and-coming fashion designer.
Upper-crust clients know how rare and valuable a top-quality alligator skin handbag is, and they want one of their own. For many of these clients, a genuine alligator leather handbag is a badge of distinction, a mark that they have it all, while others simply insist on having the best, and will settle for nothing less.
Benefit #4: It’s a Mark of Quality
The best handbags are usually made from the best materials, and people know it. Alligator leather is widely regarded as one of the best materials on the market for high-fashion handbags, so any handbag made from alligator skin lends cache to your brand.
Getting Your Alligator Leather
Overall, alligator leather is an excellent material for creating high-fashion handbags. Luxurious, supple, and very easy to work with, alligator leather is a top-quality material for talented fashion designers. However, it is one that can be hard to acquire because of the incredibly high level of demand for it and the limited number of skins available.
Alligator skin is in very short supply, so distributors don't typically stock much.
Tanneries, on the other hand, make skins “to order,” so you can get virtually any color of dye applied to your alligator skin. The major drawbacks here are that it can take a long time for an order to be processed, and the tannery will have to cover their setup costs with a surcharge.
Pan American Leathers offers the best of both worlds by acting as a tannery and as a distributor. We keep a ready stock of popular colors for short-notice orders, or we can custom tan your alligator hide order to give you the finish and coloration you want.
Check out our online store or contact us to learn more today!
Want to take a walk on the exotic side? When you are looking for a material that will give shoes a stylish up-scale look, there is only one choice that is exciting enough to grab your customer’s eyes. Alligator leather is a durable material that is beginning to gain popularity with buyers who are daring enough to be different.
Alligator leather is a product known for luxury. It’s becoming a commodity that is popular with designers that want to invest in an material that will last for ages. Plus, a quality-made pair of shoes made from alligator leather can sell for well over a grand, which means high profits for manufacturers and stores alike.
Alligator leather makes great men's or women's dress shoes. There has been an increased demand for this product in the market for its lasting qualities and opulent look.
As well as being known for its aesthetic appeal, the product is also known for having a great feel. Alligator leather has a soft, smooth touch that’s hard to find in any other material. However, there are some unique considerations to think about when purchasing alligator leather for your company's footwear.
The Richness of American Alligator Leather
The American Alligator is the Rolls Royce of leather richness. The least bony of the different crocodilian skins on the market, the texture of the American alligator is unbeatable. This is arguably one of the most luxurious leathers you can get. It’s noted for its smooth, consistent scales. Alligatore scales are also more noticeably circular than other leather options. Most of the time, the skin that is used is taken from the belly of the animal. The belly usually makes for the most consistent, defect-free leather.
Buying Quality Leather
Even though you're going for a high quality look, it doesn't mean you need the highest priced product. For shoes, a grade 2 or 3 alligator skin is usually safe to use for most footwear styles. The important thing to remember if you choose a grade 2 or 3 skin is to take a look at the defects of the product and make sure that they are in out-of-sight places. Here are some unique factors to consider when buying alligator leather for your footwear:
The price of an alligator's skin is related to its grade. One benefit of making shoes from this material is that they can be made from a grade 2 or 3 skins, which aren't quite as expensive as grade 1 skins.
It's important to buy the skin in pairs for your shoes. Even if you're making one pair of shoes, it is essential that two skins are used. One pair of footwear should come from the bellies of the gators and the other pair should use skin from the tails. This way, none of the leather goes to waste. The rest of it can be used for foxing of the shoe.
The skin from the underside and tail of the two gators should be similar to one another. Here, you're really trying to make sure the size of the scales are close to each other in appearance. High-quality leather pairs of footwear will be extremely similar in pattern. After choosing the grade of skin you’d like to purchase, you can then move onto choosing a finish.
The Price to Pay for Quality Alligator Leather
The two primary deciding factors of price are:
Grade: The standard of grading starts at 1 (best) to 4 (most defects). The basis for the grade comes from a number of criteria. The first thing to look at is how many scratches, holes, inconsistencies or blemishes are present. In order to be considered a grade 1 skin, there must not be any defects present on any area of skin. A grade 2 has defects present in one quadrant and grade 3 has them in two quadrants. Typically, grade 2 and 3 are used for footwear. The last grade of gator has issues in three quadrants of the gator and is usually reserved for accessories, such as belts.
Next, the grader looks at the size and shape of the skin. The larger the gator, the better the grade. Typically, the skin is measured in centimeters starting at the widest part of it’s underside. For shoes, you will need about 20-29 centimeters for a piece of footwear.
Pam American Leader in Leathers
If you want to invest in a quality product that will drive your shoe sales, alligator leather is a great option. Every article created from it is unique. Sure, it may take some time to determine the right choice for you, but the results are well worth it. Pan American Leathers has been an industry powerhouse since 1984 and continues to serve excellent leather products. For more information on this product, contact Pan American Leathers directly.
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
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
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.
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 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
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
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:
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
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.
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:
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 bornrich.com, 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
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.
Just 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.
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.
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!
If 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 firstname.lastname@example.org!
If 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!
Some 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
- 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.
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.