Exotic Leather Blog

How To Buy Caiman Skin

Posted by Abram Mendal on Oct 7, 2013 2:13:00 PM

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

Belly or Hornback?

belly Caiman
Back Caiman

Caiman skin is available in two different cuts: belly and hornback. When you order belly, you get a skin that is cut down the back so you get the smoother, softer underside of the caiman skin. When you order hornback, you get  skin that is cut down the front so you get the more rigid topside of the skin with the bones running from the head to the tail. For the most part this is a purely aesthetic decision based on your design preferences. Although, the hornback does tend to be slightly less expensive than the belly. 

What Are The Grading Standards?

Next you need to consider grade. Pan American Leathers does not grade the tail or head – we grade only on the belly or back depending on the cut of the skin. The grades are as follows:

  • Grade I: No defects on the belly/back
  • Grade II: Some defects on the belly/back
  • Grade III: Many defects on the belly/back

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

Grade I/II caiman skin usually makes watchstraps, handbags of various sizes, large accessories and boots. Grade II/III caiman skin is usually used in shoes, small wallets and accessories.

Size Matters

Sizing is also important to the buying process. Caiman skin is measured in centimeter width at the widest point of the belly/back. You can use either inside measure which is the measure between the inside bone on each side of the skin, or outside measure which is the measure from edge to edge. Inside measure is approximately 85% of outside measure.

25cm Caiman

Measurement Caiman

Depending on width of the skin, you’ll be able to make different goods using the various grades of the caiman skin. For skins 20-29 cm (inside measure), you can make watchstraps, shoes, boots and small to medium-sized accessories. From 30+ cm, you can make medium to large-sized handbags, boots, belts, and larger wallets.

For simplicity sake, here are the typical sizes used for a few popular caiman skin products:

  • Small clutches: 25/29 cm inside measure
  • Men’s wallets: 28/32 cm inside measure
  • Boots: 32/36 cm outside measure

Price Considerations

special finishIn general terms, the most expensive caiman 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 caiman 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. 

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!

Caiman Skin Guide

Topics: caiman skin, wallets & small leather goods, footwear, handbags