Alligator leather is a prime luxury option in leather - exotic and exclusive. Crocodile leather is another exotic leather option, though it is considered a notch lower in the level of luxury and finesse when compared to alligator leather.
This difference is practically reflected in the pricing of the two varieties - alligator leather products command a significant premium over similar crocodile leather products. This fact, plus the higher quality perception of the alligator leather has encouraged certain unscrupulous sellers to pass of crocodile leather as alligator leather.
Alligator and crocodile are two different animals - even though they belong to the same reptilian order (this order also includes caimans, gharials and saltwater crocodiles). Here is a hierarchy of different leather types in this order, graded from the best downwards -
- American Alligator
- Saltwater crocodile
- Freshwater crocodile
As such, it is important for a buyer to understand the difference between alligator leather and crocodile leather. It is only reasonable that when you pay top dollars for a genuine luxury product, you should get the real thing.
Identifying genuine alligator leather vis-a’-vis crocodile leather depends on the exclusive physical characteristics of each animal. These characteristics will help a buyer to distinguish between these two types with a fair degree of certainty - and become a connoisseur in exotic crocodilian leather!
Alligators and crocodiles both have umbilical scars - in different patterns. In alligator, the umbilical scar is an elongated webbed pattern nestled between the immediately recognizable rectangular tiles of the leather. Crocodile umbilical scar is more modest - not anywhere as elaborate as that of the alligator. Since this pattern is exclusive to alligators, its presence can conclusively establish the genuineness of a leather sample. So much so that designers take special care to include this pattern in their products.
The neck of all the crocodilian reptiles has a number of small ‘horns’ or bumps - a trained eye can decipher that they are arranged in a fixed pattern of rows which is exclusive to each animal - alligator, crocodile and caiman. For an alligator, it is 2 rows of 2 horns each; for a crocodile, it is two rows with 4 and 2 horns each.
This pattern will become discernible only in the ‘hornback cut’ - where the hide is cut to keep the neck pattern intact (as opposed to the belly cut).
Both alligator and crocodile leathers have an immediately recognizable tile patterns - but closer examination will reveal the slight differences that can distinguish the two types.
In alligator leather, the tiles are less uniform, with more natural scars. Even if the alligator leather is highly buffed, certain small, uneven lines will be visible at the base of the rectangles.
In crocodile leather, the tiles are more uniform - the pattern on one side of the belly is almost symmetrical to the other side. Also, each tile will have a small dot that will be often visible - a remnant of the hair follicle that was present there (This is an exclusive distinguishing characteristic of a crocodile).