What are the most important aspects of tanned alligator skins?

1)      Size and orientation of the hide – What is the cut of the hide?  How large is it?  Most tanned alligator hides are between 5 – 7 ft in length when harvested from an alligator farm, which is more consistent and better quality than wild alligators.

2)      Grading of the Hide – Does the hide have scratches, holes, scars, tears, etc?  Natural/wild animals will always have natural blemishes and inconsistencies that add character to some applications but may be undesirable in others.  A higher grade skin will be free of these defects that can result either from the animal’s life in the wild or an error in the tanning process.  Tanneries never like to waste materials and may tan lower grade alligator hides, but they are typically cut and the best pieces are separated and are perfect for smaller applications like wallets and belts.

3)      Size of the Tile – An alligators “tiles” (or scales) will grow with the size of the alligator.  Alligators will shed their scales, which grow over time.  Larger animals produce larger hides with which larger cuts can be created.  However, these larger animals also have larger tiles which can hinder applications that may not express the alligator pattern often desired in finished goods.

4)      Finish and coloring – is the finish and color consistent? – This is especially important with large production orders.  A good tannery and/or exotics broker will always inspect the skins for color accuracy when they are dried and finished before the final shipment to the broker and/or customer who placed the order.

5)      Is it a belly cut or a back cut? – Each cut will have a different texture and appearance.  A “back cut” features a row of horns along the sides of the hide and features the smoother belly in the middle.  A “belly cut” is cut down the middle of the belly of the alligator, with the smoother belly skin along the side and the row of thicker horns down the middle.  A “belly cut” produces a “hornback”, which a “back cut” produces the smoother textured belly down the middle.