Even among exotic leathers,shark skin is an extraordinary and unique material. In fact, there are many people who don’t even know that shark hide is an option for their exotic leather projects.
What is shark skin used for? There are a few different uses for shark skin—here’s a short list of some ideal uses for shark skin:
Shark Skin Use #1: Footwear
One popular modern use of shark leather is to create water-resistant footwear. At30” long and up to 20” wide, shark skins are often plenty large enough to accommodate the panel sizes needed for footwear—even with the large fin hole near the center of the hide.
Shark skin is more supple than stingray skins, so it’s easy to create comfortable footwear that’s also high-fashion. Combine the shark hide with some eel leather for the tongue, and you can create an extremely luxurious boot that will be the envy of collectors everywhere. It is best to use grade II or III skins for footwear to avoid having to cut in the defects on the grade IV or overpaying for the grade I.
Exotic Shark Skin Use #3: Belts
Because of the length of a shark hide, it is very easy to create a flexible high-fashion belt. In fact, a single full-sized Grade III or IV shark skin could easily produce enough leather to make two or three belts.
The leftover scraps from the belt cuts could be used to fill in patches on other exotic leather projects, or to make wristbands, tongues for shoes, and decorative tassels.
Exotic Shark Skin Use #4: Wallets
As a flexible, durable and water-resistant leather,shark skin can make for a top-class wallet. Shark skin is large enough for billfolds, passport cases or even envelope wallets. Use grade I or II skins for wallets, as wallet panels are typically too large to fit between the defects on the lower grade shark skin.
Shark leather wallets are very durable when constructed well, protecting their contents from all manner of mishaps while showing off the taste and affluence of their owners.
Curious about other uses for shark skin? Reach out to PanAm Leathers today to learn more about shark hide and other exotic leathers.
Knowing the defining qualities of exotic leathers is key for choosing the right one for your needs. For example, some hides are soft and flexible, while others are rigid and tough. So, what are the qualities of shark leather?
In a recent post, we discussed some of the most popular uses of shark skins—such as for boots and belts—but what are the qualities of shark leather that make the hide ideal for such uses?
To help you learn more about exotic skin qualities (and shark hide in particular), here’s a short list of some of the qualities ofshark leather that you should know:
As an aquatic hide, shark skin is inherently resistant to water—similar to stingray skin and eel skin. However, while shark skin itself does not readily absorb water, the finish of a piece of shark leather may be adversely affected by prolonged exposure to water.
When ordering shark leather, it helps to check with the supplier how the finish will be affected by water if you plan on using the leather for a product that will be exposed to water.
Shark Leather Texture
Shark skin is covered in a layer of “dermal denticles,” or tooth-like formations with a sharp point. If not ground down, these denticles create a rough texture for the hide when moving against the “grain” of the skin. In fact, these denticles are sharp and tough enough that one common use of shark skin is as a type of sandpaper!
Many tanneries opt to grind down the rough edges off their shark skins, making them smoother and less likely to cause scrapes from careless handling. This results in a deep natural pebble.
A side benefit of shark skins being covered in these miniscule scales is that it makes the hide more resistant to casual abrasions—so it’s less likely to show scratches. However, shark skin is not as scratch-resistant as stingray leather, which is covered in small, hard calcium beads.
Normally, a hide covered in tough scales is not very flexible. However, shark skin scales are very small, which allows the hide to flex with relative ease. When processed in a way that strips or sands down the dermal denticles, shark leather can be made more flexible (and softer to the touch).
Size and Grading
Because PanAm’s shark skins come from wild sources, thesize and grade of skin available can vary significantly. On average, shark hides tend to be about 30” long and 20” wide at their widest point—with the hide tapering to 4” wide at the narrowest point.
Grading for shark leather is based on the number of scuffs, scratches, or scars present in the two main sections of the hide above and below the center fin hole. A grade 1 shark skin would have no significant defects in these sections, while a grade 4 piece of skin would have multiple defects in both halves of the hide.
It is common for shark skins to have bite marks from other blue sharks because of their mating rituals. As noted byanimaldiversity.org, “Mating begins when a male bites a female between her first and second dorsal fins.” So, hides coming from mature blue sharks will frequently have a few bite marks.
In a recent post, we discussed the origin of the blue shark skin that PanAm Leathers uses for its shark skin offering. The blue shark, or prionace glauca, is a widespread shark species that can be found in almost any ocean (except for the Arctic Ocean). PanAm Leathers’ shark skin comes from sources in the fishing industry, as a byproduct of blue sharks that have been fished for their meat.
One of the most important things to know about any type of exotic leather is how to measure and grade that type of leather—as well as how best to use each of the individual grades of skin. To help youfind the best shark hides for your needs, here’s a quick guide on how to measure and grade shark skin:
Measuring Shark Skin
Typically, a shark skin is measured in square feet by a machine. They range from 3 to 7 square feet, with a 4 square foot average total. Of course, these skins aren’t perfect squares. They are an imperfect diamond shape with a hole in the center and towards the back where the fins were. Like manyother exotic leather products, shark skin tapers from one end to the other. When measuring shark skin, they tend to be around 30 inches long and 20 inches wide at their widest point.
How to Grade Shark Skin
Shark skin, like many other exotic leathers, is separated into four distinct grades based on how pristine the skin is. Grading is done on two different sections of the shark skin—the section above the largest fin hole in the center of the skin and the section below said hole.
The more scratches, scuffs and scars the skin has, the lower its grade. Here are the four grades of shark skin:
Grade 1 shark skin. These skins are free of any significant defects in the center of the two main sections. Grade 1 is very rare because shark skin is collected from wild sources instead of farms.
Grade 2 shark skin. A grade 2 shark hide will have a small defect or cluster of defects in one half of one section of the skin. These defects can usually be worked around with ease.
Grade 3 shark skin. These shark leathers will have a small defect or defect cluster appearing on two halves of either main section of the shark skin.
Grade 4 shark skin. The shark hide has multiple defects in both sections of the hide—worse than grade 3 shark skin.
The majority of defects take the form of scars, scrapes, scratches and holes.
Because these hides are taken from wild sharks that are hunted for their meat, grade 1 and 2 shark skin is comparatively rare. Grade 3 and 4 shark skin are much more common.
PanAm Leathers is dedicated to providing top-quality exotic leathers that suit the demands of high-fashion applications. Shark skin is one of the PanAm’s aquatic leather options, available in avariety of finishes and colors.
Some designers have questions about shark leather, such as:
Where does PanAm Leathers’ shark skin come from?
Why should I use it for my exotic leather projects?
How is shark skin graded?
What are the defining qualities of shark leather?
To answer these questions, the PanAm team decided to put together a short series of blog posts. This article will highlight some background information about the shark skins that Pan American Leathers produces and supplies.
Where Does PanAm Leathers’ Shark Skin Come from?
There are many different species of sharks out there, each with a unique combination of size, coloration and shape. The species of shark that PanAm Leathers uses comes from the blue shark.
The blue shark, or prionace glauca, is a wide-ranging shark species that can be found in most temperate oceans. In fact, according toanimaldiversity.org, “Blue sharks are one of the most wide ranging shark species and can be found in all major oceans (except the Arctic), as well as the Mediterranean Sea and in temperate and tropical pelagic waters.”
Specifically, PanAm sources blue shark skins taken from wild sources in New England, South America and Southeast Asia. Because these are wild sharks, their size and the grade of their skins may vary significantly from one piece of shark leather to the next. Availability of shark skin may also vary depending on harvest limits each year, as blue shark fishing has to be carefully controlled in order to prevent overfishing.
What Are the Blue Sharks Used for?
These sharks are harvested in the wild for a variety of purposes beyond their skins—in fact these blue shark skins are a byproduct of the fishing industry. The primary products of shark fishing include:
Shark meat for consumption and fishmeal; and
Oil products from shark livers.
Shark liver oil is, asnoted by WebMD, “used along with usual cancer drugs to treat leukemia and other cancers.” Additionally, shark fin soup is considered a delicacy in many regions.
Check back in the following weeks to learn more about blue shark skins as an exotic leather. Or,contact PanAm Leathers to discuss if shark skin is right for your next exotic leather project.
The size, softness and quality of the American crocodile skin make them ideal for certain products. But you use different size and grades (quality) for different types of products. Below we define the grading standards for the American crocodile skin and then provide guidance on which skins should be used for which products.
What Are the Grading Standards?
The grading system for the quality of a crocodile skin is based off a 1-5 number system, 1 being the best and 5 being the worst:
Grade 1: No defects on the mid-section (including belly and flanks). Handbags typically require grade 1 skins since the large, rectangular main front and back panels being showcased should be flawless. Skins in this quality (especially in large sizes) are very rare and priced accordingly.
Grade 2: Defect or small cluster of defects along the outer edges of the belly or flanks. The better grade 2's can be used for handbags and the others are typically used for garments. While handbags require a full rectangular panel with no defects, garment panels tend to be longer and not as wide so defects can be worked around. Plus, given the size of garments, customers tend to be more forgiving of small defects.
Grade 3: Defect or small cluster of defects in one quadrant of the midsection. The better grade 3 crocodile skin can be used for garments and the others are typically used for footwear. Footwear gets very good yields out of the acutus crocodile skin, given their size and quality. Footwear panels are larger than most people expect but not nearly as large as handbag or garment panels, allowing for more flexibility cutting around defects. In addition, these grade 3 skins can be used for wallets and other small leather goods, as long as the customer is comfortable with the relatively large scale size of this crocodile skin on a smaller item. Lastly, very large grade 3 skins can be used for upholstery, where small nicks tend to matter the least given the size and use of these products.
Grade 4: More than one defect or cluster of defects on the midsection of the crocodile skin. The grade 4 acutus crocodile skin is most commonly used for belts, as crocodile skin belts are typically made of several joined strips. This allows a lot of flexibility cutting around defects.
Grade 5: Worse than a grade 4. These skins are for special use like small leather goods, leather craft training and decorative application.
The type of defects commonly found on exotic animal skins are holes, scars and scratches. An experienced manufacturer will know how to select skins and cut the usable skin around the defects so they won't show on your products.
The size of the crocodile skin also factors. Typically, the larger the product you are making, the larger the panels you need. The larger the panels required, the larger the skin needs to be.
60+ cm crocodile skin is typically best for interiors or luggage (better grades) and belts (lower grades). The scales on these skins are so large that they look disproportionate on smaller products.
40-59 cm crocodile skin is best for handbags (best grades), garments, footwear, (medium grades) and belts (low grades). These sizes are quite versatile in terms of size, scale size, softness, thickness, etc.
As a reminder, crocodile skin is measured in centimeters at the widest point in the belly. The American crocodile skins available typically range from 6-10 feet (2-3 meters) long.
To achieve the high-quality American crocodile skin (also known as acutus crocodile) needed for high-fashion, the skins must go through a process called tanning. Tanning an exotic skin is the crucial process in the transition of raw skin into leather. Without this, the skins are susceptible to bacterial growth and decomposition.
The steps in tanning are extensive, but highly necessary. The process in our Bogota tannery involves:
Dry salting the hide as a preservative measure
Soaking skin (to clean)
Liming for descaling
De-liming to raise acidity
Pickling (to soften)
Chrome tanning to convert organic material into inorganic material
Shaving to thin and de-grease leather
Bleaching to remove the natural markings and achieve one uniform color throughout the crocodile skin
Re-tanning to re-soften the leather for manufacturing of finished products
Drying (hang-dry or toggle dry)
Dry cleaning to further de-grease
Shaving to prepare the leather for the product (garments require thinner skins that handbags or footwear)
Finishing to seal and apply final look and feel
The crocodile skin is delivered from the suppliers having been already salted to remove the moisture and preserve the skin until we start our process. At this time, the hides are highly susceptible to the elements. The first step in the tanning process is soaking, which is where we rinse the salt and dirt off the skins, so they go into the drums nice and clean.
The Tanning Process
Once rinsed, we use a liming process to remove the scales, nails, mucins and natural greases/fats found on the skin. This process also helps to split the fibers to make the collagen in the skin workable. We then de-lime the hide to raise the acidity that is lowered from the liming step.
The exotic hide is then "pickled" in an acidic bath to break down any bone and calcium in the skin to allow the material to be more pliable. Since the acutus has no bone, pickling is a very short process to soften the skin. After this is a chrome bath that makes the hide durable and no longer susceptible to the elements.
At this point, we shave the skins down so that the chrome seeps in deeply and evenly, plus it removes the weight from the skin so the subsequent processes consume less chemicals. The crocodile skins are then bleached to remove the natural markings, so they are all one uniform base color prior to dyeing.
Now, the skins can be stored on the shelf until we receive orders for specific colors.
Once we receive orders, the acutus crocodile skin is re-tanned with vegetable-based products so that the toughened skin from the initial tanning process is made supple again. Skins being used for garments needs to be re-tanned and shaved softer and thinner than skins that are used for other products. The crocodile skin is then either hang-dried or toggled by a special oven that evaporates the remaining water and removes moisture.
The leather is then dyed, shaved to the specific thickness needed for the application, and finished off with protective coatings to have the leather look (glazed, matte, suede, metallic, etc.) and feel (oily, silky, waxy, sturdy) a certain way, and be further protected from the elements. Once these steps are completed, the crocodile skins are ready to be manufactured into finished products, like handbags, garments, shoes, etc.
The tanning process is the place where the magic happens to provide you with the crocodile skin needed for all your leather projects. For more questions on the tanning of other exotic hides such as alligator skin, contact us or download one of our guides!
There are a few qualities that separate the acutus crocodile skin from the American alligator skin or the skin of other crocodilian species:
Narrow Flank and Wide Belly Section
While the American alligator has a very wide flank section relative to the belly, the acutus crocodile skin has the opposite. The flanks occupy a relatively small portion of the width across the midsection. This is a particularly attractive quality for garments and any other product where you prefer the square belly scales over the round flanks scales.
Small Follicle Markings on Belly Scales
Small follicle markings are a nice detail to exotic hide products and a highly distinguishing factor. Crocodilian species with these markings include: the American, Nile, Saltwater and Siamese crocodiles.
The percentage of bone found in an exotic skin is one of the key factors in determining the suppleness and flexibility of the product and how manageable the skin is during manufacturing of the finished product.
For example, the toughest and hardest exotic skin to use is caiman skin since it contains between 1.95%-2.25% of bone. Bags made from caiman skin will typically have creases in the material. Nile crocodile skin and American Alligator skin contain a much smaller amount of bone and are slightly easier to handle. The American crocodile skin and saltwater crocodile skin have no bone, making them the softest and most pliable.
Farmed to Large Sizes
The acutus crocodiles are mostly farmed along the equator, meaning not much heat is required to keep their pens warm. This provides huge cost advantages to those farms, allowing them to grow their crocodiles larger at a fraction of the cost of farms in other parts of the world. This means that the acutus crocodile skin is available in top farmed quality and large sizes at a price that is nearly impossible to find anywhere else in the world.
Not Permitted in USA
Currently, American crocodile hide is illegal in the US for both import and trade. PanAm’s European store stocks these skins for in person purchase or for order online from our European site. PanAm can ship directly out of Paris or from our tannery in Bogota, Colombia to almost all CITES-member countries.
A high-end, quality leather product is extremely sought after by the most fashionable clientele. The right exotic skin can help surpass customer expectations and offer the best symbol of style and class. For more information on how to use PanAm’s leather selection for your next project, contact us to setup a consultation today.
When you’reshopping for crocodile skin, the size and grade of the skins you buy is a major factor. There are many applications where you might need a large skin, and many where a skin that is too large would be a bit of a waste. Also, some applications require the entirety of the crocodile skin you use to be as pristine , while others may allow you to work around defects in the hide.
As a result, it is important to know how a hide is measured, as that affects the overall size and shape of the panels. Take, for example, theAmerican crocodile skin: in this blog, we’ll highlight the overall size of the American crocodile’s hide, how that measurement is taken, and what the different grades of skin indicate.
How Big is American Crocodile Skin, and How Is It Measured?
American crocodiles are one of the larger crocodilian species (though not the biggest), with adults hitting an average length ranging between 3.8 and 4.5 meters. However, when measuring an American crocodile skin, it’s not the length of the hide that’s typically measured, but the width of the belly at its widest point.
When measured by belly width, American crocodile skins can vary from 35 cm wide to 75 cm wide—but, the majority of available skins will be around the 50-69 cm range. Depending on the overall size of the American crocodile in question, the hide may have between 25 and 34 rows of belly scales, with 14-16 scales per row.
As a rule, wider American crocodile skins also tend to be longer relative to other crocodile species, meaning they’ll have more belly scale rows for you to work with.
What Are the Different Grades of American Crocodile Leather?
The grade assessment for American crocodile leather is made based on the condition of the belly. There are four grades of American crocodile skin (ranked from best to worst):
Grade 1. These are the “pristine” or “flawless” skins that have no defects in the belly.
Grade 2. These skins might have a solitary defect or small cluster of defects on the outer edge of the belly—these are usually easy to work around.
Grade 3. There may be a defect or a small cluster of defects in or near the center of the belly, which may be somewhat difficult to work around (depending on the application).
Grade 4. Here, there are defects present in more than a single quadrant of the belly.
Naturally, the worse the grade and the smaller the size, the less expensive the American crocodile skin will be. When shopping for exotic leather, it’s important to consider your application and how easy it will be to work around any defects in the hide.
Balancing Size, Grade, and Cost for American Crocodile Leather
Crocodile skin is expensive, so you want to make sure you get the most out of your skin. Handbags typically require the best grades, followed by garments and upholstery, then footwear, and finally belts and smaller leather goods.
The ideal size for your project depends on the size of your panels, how much seaming you are comfortable with both technically and aesthetically, and also the scale size with which you are comfortable. For example, you probably don’t want huge scales on a small card case.
Pan American Leathers is dedicated to providing top-quality exotic leathers from ethical and sustainable sources. One of the popular emerging exotic leather options is the American crocodile skin—otherwise known as the “acutus crocodile” or scientific name of crocodylus acutus.
Here is a bit of background information on American crocodiles:
Where Do the American Crocodiles Used by PanAm Come From?
The native habitat of the American crocodile is the southeastern part of the U.S. as well as some parts of Central and South America. More specifically, according to data cited by the Everglades National Park Florida website, members of the species crocodylus acutus:
“Inhabit coastal areas of south Florida where they are at the northern extreme of their range. American crocodiles also can be found on the islands of Cuba, Jamaica, and Hispaniola, as well as along both coasts of southern Mexico and Central America, south to Ecuador on the Pacific coast of South America, and Venezuela on the Atlantic coast.”
The skins that PanAm Leathers processes come primarily from captive-bred crocodile farms in Colombia. Using farmed crocodile skins helps to ensure the highest possible quality of exotic leather, as there is less risk of the crocodiles getting into fights with wild animals and being hurt.
Comparing American Crocodiles to Other Crocodile Leather
American crocodiles are often compared to other crocodilians, such as the American alligator, caiman, Nile, saltwater, and siamese crocodiles. Here are a few quick comparison points for each:
Small to Medium
Medium to Large
Caiman crocodilus fuscus
Medium to Large
Overall, American crocodiles are on the larger size for crocodilian leathers, but are not the largest. They are out-sized by both Nile and saltwater crocodiles. With no bone content, the American crocodile is softer and more pliable than some other crocodile leathers, making it ideal for clothing and garments.
Some other key differences that reinforce the acutus’ usefulness for garments are that they are farmed to larger sizes than other species and the square belly scales are a larger percentage of the midsection versus the circular flank scales, relative to other crocodiles. Large, clean skins and square scales are both very desirable qualities for crocodile skins being used for garments.
Are There Restrictions On American Crocodile Leather?
Yes. At this time, American crocodile leather is not approved for import into or trade within the USA. PanAm stocks these skins in our Paris showroom for purchase in person or through our European online shop. We can also ship from Paris or directly from our tannery in Bogota, Colombia to almost any other CITES-member country.