Educating Yourself & Frequently
Alligators an Endangered Species?
No. In 1987, the
U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service pronounced the
American Alligator fully recovered and consequently
removed the animal from the list of endangered
Although the American Alligator is secure, some
related animals (such as the Chinese Alligator
and several species of crocodiles and caimans)
are still in trouble. For this reason, the U.S.
Fish and Wildlife Service still regulates the
legal trade in alligator skins, or products
made from them, in order to protect endangered
crocodile and caiman species with skin that
is similar in appearance. "If you
want to save an alligator, buy a handbag,"
says Ruth Elsey, a wildlife biologist at the
state-administered Rockefeller Wildlife Refuge
in Louisiana (Click
Here for the full National
Geographic News article). In fact,
the demand for alligator products have enabled
American alligator farms to fully reestablish
the species from it's almost extinct category.
One of the most wonderful benefits of buying
vintage or antique exotic skins is that you
not only own one-of-a-kind items, but you are
in effect "recycling"
these beautiful skins!
If you are not in love
with exotic skins yet, please view some simply
fantastic video/audio coverage on the
tanning process of alligator/crocodile hides
is the Difference Between Alligators and Crocodiles?
Many people have difficulty
determining the difference between alligator
and crocodile skin. We have found that
the best explanation and insight into the
primary differences within the species is offered
by the experts at www.alligatorfur.com. They offer the following guidance:
examination of the leather
in a crocodilian product can give clear clues as to the species of
origin. Products with large amounts of leather are generally easy to
identify. Small products such as watch bands are much more difficult to
distinguish. This is especially important since the quality of
crocodilian leathers varies greatly by species. Alligators and
crocodiles are considered classic leathers and are high quality and
high price. Caiman is an inferior product, is much
cheaper on a wholesale level, and is more abundant in the market.
Although caiman has its place in the market, mislabeling has become
such a problem that the buyer need beware. Many caiman products are
marked crocodile or alligator and sold at the high prices of these
classic leathers. Alligator is sometimes marked croc', and croc' marked
alligator. Some of this is a cultural difference; Americans tend to
call all "crocodile" alligator, and Europeans tend to call "alligator"
crocodile. Upon close inspection, one will find that some large pieces
have mixed leather in them. In the past it was fashionable to make a
purse with alligator on one side and crocodile on the other. Today, due
to product cost, it is not uncommon to see a purse with alligator or
crocodile on the front and back and caiman on the sides with a caiman
Leathers: Alligator Umbilical Scars
single most distinguishing feature of alligator leather is the
umbilical scar. The alligator is the only crocodilian that has this
feature. Designers will often put this section of the leather
prominently on their products to make the authenticity of the leather
evident. As many as three may be used in making a purse. The umbilical
scar is an elongated star shape with a webbing pattern in it. Finding
this mark on leather identifies it as genuine alligator. Click on the
small image to see a close-up of an alligator umbilical scar.
Pliability and durability are what makes
the alligator a superior and classic
leather. Alligator and crocodile leathers
are pliable. Caiman have bony plates
in the skin, which dramatically decreases
the pliability of the leather. When
caiman leather is creased cracks appear
between the plates.
way the unpracticed eye can easily distinguish alligator leather is by
counting the bumps on the back of the head. At the base of the head
crocodilians have a pattern of bumps that is unique to each species.
The alligator has a pattern of 2-2-2 bumps. Caiman have a pattern of
4-4-2, and crocodiles have 4-2. Click each small image to see a
Scales and Patterns
The belly scales of the alligator
and crocodile are smooth and pliable. This smoothness and the
homogenous nature of alligator and crocodile skins allows dyes to
distribute evenly in the leather. The bony deposits in the caiman skin
will not allow dyes to distribute evenly and causes crinkling in the
belly scales. If you see splotchy patterns in the dye, then you are
looking at caiman.
The alligator has a slightly less
even pattern than the crocodile with some irregularities appearing in
the scales. As already mentioned the alligator has the umbilical scar
and the crocodile does not. Notice the more even rows and pattern in
on the above images to see enlargements. The
alligator's umbilical scar is indicated.
- Integumentary Sensory Organ (ISO) Pores
||The most distinguishing feature of
crocodile leather is the integumentary sensory organ pore. Crocodiles
have a sensory hair on each scale that is used to feel their
environment. After the skin is tanned the hair is gone but the pore in
each scale remains. Close examination of the product will reveal these
pores. Click on the image to see an enlargement of the ISO pore.
Scales and Patterns
The flanks of the alligator have
dense scales of even sizes, while the flanks of the caiman have uneven
sizes and spaced scales. Compare the images below to see the
differences. Click the images for enlargements.
I Determine Genuine Alligator/Crocodile Skins
Faux designs (embossed/stamped leather or
vinyl) are becoming increasingly better and, as
a result, becoming more difficult to identify.
Some faux patterns are made by rolling something
over a genuine alligator/crocodile skin to make
the press. The finer details of faux are endless,
but here are a few tell-tale signs: the creases
between the tiles are not deep and the pattern
is often very repetitive. You can sometimes
see the vinyl or leather backing of stamped or
embossed items. And lastly, some items (but
not all) made with alligator leather will include
the skin with the umbilical scar (referenced above)
in order to indicate authenticity and quality.
For additional insight, be sure to peruse our
Skin Types overview.