Thought all you croc and exotics lovers would be interested in this article from the September issue of "Departures." (Page No. 156)
THE EXPERT: Cameron Silver, owner of vintage L.A. emporium, Decades, and self-confessed croco addict.
Q: First things first. How can I tell my alligator from my croc?
A: Crocodile and alligator skins are often misidentified by retailers or used interchangeably. The Alligatoridae family includes the American alligator and the caimans; Crocodylidae includes the saltwater (porosus) and Nile (niloticus). There are other varieties, but these four are the only ones legally traded in the United States.
I don't claim to be a herpetologist, but the easiest way for a layman to decipher the difference is to know that only crocodile has a dimple in each scale, called a dermal pressure receptor. American alligator is noted for its clean, totally smooth skin. Caiman comes from South American and has an outer skeleton, giving the skin a varied texture and a bit of a savage quality.
Q: Crocodile versus alligator: Who wins?
A: Crocodile is perceived by many as superior to alligator, porosus crocodile being the absolute ultimate for an exotic skin handbag. Rumor has it that Hermes has a virtual monopoly on the export of these skins, which are found mostly in Australia. Among the alligators, American is preferred, the skin used most often by fashion designers since its fibers are not as dense as a crocodile's, so the skins are softer; that's why it's perfect for supple garments like Brioni's zip-up men's bomber.
Aficionados think of caiman alligator as at the lower end of the exotic skin totem pole. However, as a more affordable alternative, it has no shortage of fans. Caiman-loving Nancy Gonzalez is the largest worldwide purveyor of exotic skin brand-name handbags which range from $645 to $35,000.
Q. That's the low end?
A: Yes, exotics are expensive. Caiman skins can grow big enough in nine months to make a single bag. In contrast, farmers need to wait a few years until a porosus crocodile is big enough to farm the skin.
Q: Do alligators actually come in shiny green and gold?
A: Regardless of how fantastic they might look, a lot of the new trendy tanning techniques like white, metallic, and hand-painted finishes can compromise the durability of the skin.
The glaze finish is classic, most gorgeous in porosus but prone to fingerprinting and sensitive to water. The matte finish is oil- and water-resistant, doesn't smudge, and looks great in both alligator and Nile crocodile. The protective topcoat used in the millennium finish, a hybrid of glazed and matte tends to take away from the natural beauty of the skin; it gives the pieces a bit of a plastic look.
Q: What's next on your shopping list?
A: I collect vintage crocodile Hermes travel bags and wallets from as far back as the twenties. And I'd love to add YSL's iPhone case and Samsonite's Black Label Bespoke trolley to my personal wardrobe of exotic accessories, which include Louis Vuitton alligator shoes and an antiqued alligator coat."