This week, we talk about some exotic skins and how you identify the real from the counterfeits. Remember, if you're buying exotic skin products, always go vintage or pre-loved!
Lizard bearn wallet from Hermes
While not as popular as its other exotic skin counterparts, lizard skin is slowly seeing a rise in popularity thanks to a number of big-name fashion houses. The lizards mostly come from the monitor lizard family (because they're just bigger. I mean, you weren't expecting the common house lizard to be used to make your wallet, were you?). As a wild animal, these lizards are subjected to many hazards that are beyond the control of the tannery. They include being attacked by predators such as snakes and young crocodiles, which can result in damages to the monitor’s hide.
So, finding the perfect, unblemished skin is hard. This, in return, affects the prices of the items you purchase, and lizard skin products cost more than snakeskin products.
Generally, there are two species of lizards used. If you spot a distinct natural design featuring a series of intricate rings on your products, that's because they're made from the skin of ring lizards which are smaller in size. For the most parts, this skin is used to make leather trimmings of bags. The patterns also make them ideal for ladies’ footwear, clutches and other small or medium accessories.
For bigger items, such as a full lizard bag or wallet, Nile lizards are used. They are much larger and the pattern is bleached out. The pattern is consistent and uniformed and thus makes for a good bag design.
5-7 Stingray Bag from Balenciaga, SGD 1,200
Of all exotic skins and leathers, stingray is probably the most underrated. Unlike its other exotic skins counterparts, stingray skin/leather is the most durable. It is hardy and is not easily scratched.
When seen underwater, stingray skin appears light and smooth. However, when dried and tanned, the skin begins to form a pattern that looks like a blanket of pearls. These gorgeous patterns cluster together, making it difficult to cut or tear without ruining the leather. These days, however, leather artisans have found numerous ways to use this skin. According to many online reports, Shagreen, which is one of the most popular stingray skin types, is untanned leather with a rough and granular surface, sometimes used for book bindings, pocket books and small cases. Likewise, leather artisans can instead buff off the top of the leather’s beads, creating an exotically speckled surface.
Caviar (standard) finish stingray have bumps or beads that have not been altered from nature. Stingray skins have a unique diamond-shaped white eye/crown in the center of each skin which is actually a calcium deposit. There are two breathing holes located at the upper portion of each skin which is not considered in the grading nor is any area in-between the breathing holes. Stingray skins are measured from the widest area across.
Ostrich Alma BB Bag from Louis Vuitton
Ostrich leather is desirable because of its durability. It is also considered to be the finest quality leather in the world. The skin of an ostrich has a lot of natural oils that help it stay strong and prevent it from cracking and becoming stiff. For most, ostrich skin is desirable because it looks supple and it is soft to touch.
One of the things that gives ostrich its unique look is the raised points on the hide, marking where the feathers were growing out of the skin. These bumps form a sort of diamond shaped crown on the ostrich skin. The crown of the skin is said to be the most the desirable part of the ostrich because it has the highest concentration of the aforementioned diamond shaped bumps or quills. Because this only covers one-third of the whole ostrich skin, products made from this part of the ostrich are often priced at a very high price. This is often reserved for the most luxurious of fashion items - like the Hermes Birkin in Ostrich, for instance.
For a cheaper alternative, there are products made from ostrich print leather. These products look similar to the real thing but are actually made using cheaper leather that is embossed with the bumps and quills typically found on real ostrich skin. An easy way to tell the difference between true ostrich leather and ostrich print, is to simply run your hand along the leather; the bumps on the ostrich skin will be much more pronounced. The bumps are pretty significant and many times there is a small pore at the top of the bumps where the feathers grew. This type of texture is very difficult to replicate with a machine or an embossing stamp, so this is a very good way to tell the difference. Also, with an embossed ostrich print you can see the uniformity in the quill bumps. In real ostrich leather each quill mark is quite unique and this natural tendency is not possible to replicate with an embossing stamp.