So you’re out shopping for a new handbag or purse and you come across something with the unique, colorful appearance of alligator leather. But before you drop your hard-earned money on a new expensive handbag, you should first know how to tell if the alligator leather product you’re purchasing is real or fake.
Here are some tips to distinguish real alligator leather from fake alligator leather.
Appearance – Is the finish of the skin shiny or matte? While genuine alligator leather can be finished with a shine, almost all fake alligator leather will have an unnatural shine to it. Does the skin itself look natural? No high end material uses cheap cardboard or plastic backings, and likewise cheap facets. Closely examine the scales, if you recognize obvious patterns it’s likely not real. All natural hides will have a wild, natural pattern to them and often have slight imperfections. These natural imperfections are what make a genuine skin so lively! It’s the reason that pound for pound, a synthetic material can never match the appeal of genuine alligator.
The Smell Test – Smell is always a telltale sign of genuine alligator leather. You won’t know how to tell genuine leather from fake if you don’t know what real leather smells like. Give you leather a good whiff. Real alligator will have a “leathery” smell. Depending on the production, this smell will either have a fishy/swampy smell to it or the smell of mild pleasant smell of tanned leather. If you’re unsure, find a small place on the underside of the material and put a dab of water on it. Just a little will do it – let it sit for a few minutes and smell the wet spot. Does it have a natural odor to it?
Give it a feel – Run your hands across the surface and grab a portion of the material and pinch it in your fingers. Does it feel thin or artificial? If it does, it probably is thin or artificial. Genuine alligator should always feel dense and strong.
Do a label check – Most goods will have a label on them, especially if they’re genuine. All high-end brands will have a label on them. If you’re buying cheap goods from a department store or if the label doesn’t state it is real, it is likely fake. Check for all labels, tags, and print on the inside of the garment to see if it claims it is genuine.
If you’re still unsure– Find and ask an exotic leather professional. There are few left in the United States since most professional tanners and tanneries have moved overseas. However, alligator tanning is still a popular industry in the Southwest United States and among professional exotic leather sourcing specialists.