Here are some things you should know about the delicate, intricate steps in processing alligator and ostrich skin into fine leathers in an exotic leather tannery:
1) Batch sizes, process times, and quality measurements are different from cow leather – The smaller batches, the longer process times, and the more measurements demonstrate just how valuable the production of a full alligator hide is. This adds to its luxury appeal since it takes a true professional tanner to produce a hide of exceptional quality.
2) Skins are graded by the centimeter – Since exotic skins are sold at such small measurements (Centimeters), most exotic alligator and ostrich skin tanners will work very carefully to eliminate wasted material through trimming. This means they must be experts at operating the machines to produce the hides.
3) Chemical Measurements must be very accurate – When dealing with valuable exotics, there is no desire to “experiment” or “test” with skins! A mistake can result in wasted material which loses the tannery money as well as a poor finished skin.
4) Constant Inspection – From beginning to end, skins are tagged per regulations (since exotics are often closely regulated). Exotic leather production cannot be rushed – sometimes materials take longer to tan than expected, but rushing through the process to produce a fine material usually results in an inferior product. It takes a true expert to create an exotic leather to production quality standards.
5) Liming/De-liming/Clipping – Powdered lime is first added to remove the epidermal layer through an intricate process. After this has been removed (after days of processing) skins are de-limed with Ammonium Chloride. After de-liming, skins are clipped to prevent them from “balling up” and tying to each other during the drum processes.
6) Bleaching - Pigmentation is bleached out of the skin. This often involves hazardous ingredients that should be handled with care and requires ventilation, and proper drainage and filtration to do it safely.
7) Tanning and Re-tanning – A tanner adds his own personal recipe of ingredients and skill to craft a finely tanned, luxury alligator hide. Often an anti-fungal product is added to prevent mold growth when the skins are stored.
8) Coloring and Finishing – After the long and intricate process of tanning and producing a finished hide, it is important that a tannery uses only the best, top quality coloring and finishing dyes, glazes, and tools for their finished product. With the right application, a beautiful finished hide is produced.