How to tell if Python Snakeskin Leather is Real or Fake?
Genuine Python Snakeskin Leather is one of the most sought-after materials in the world, crafted into unique accessories that turn an everyday product into something truly exceptional. But how can you tell if that python snakeskin bag, wallet, phone case or other accessories you're buying is the real deal? Here are some expert tips from the Civitas Regis team to help you navigate the world of luxury leather - it's easy, once you know what to look out for!
1. One of the most important aspects of fake snakeskin leather is to be wary of the fact that it can still be labelled as "Genuine Leather".
In cases like this, the famous snakeskin pattern is simply artificially embossed onto a much cheaper base leather, like calfskin or some other bovine variant. This is one of the most troubling marketing tricks that fake snakeskin goods sellers use; stating their offering to be something along the lines of: "XX Product in Python/Snakeskin - Genuine Leather". The way to get around this trick is to consider one important thing: authentic vendors of real snakeskin leather goods are not going to be hiding behind word-play in order to describe their product. They will explicitly state somewhere very noticeable something to the effect of: "XX Product in Genuine Python/Snakeskin Leather", for example. The claim of authenticity is pegged not to a general term of leather, as with some vendors of imitation snakeskin goods, but specifically to the genuine nature of the python/snakeskin leather itself.
So unless a fake python goods vendor is illegally misleading you by specifically claiming that their product is anything other than a bovine leather imitation, then you should always be able to look out for these suspiciously-worded product titles and descriptions as a clue as to whether what you're being sold is authentic.
Conclusion: Unless the leather product in question is categorically stated to be genuine exotic leather, avoid it.
2. Texture, texture, and more texture.
Genuine snakeskin leather is one of the most richly textured leathers in the world, and it is for this reason it is actually very hard to fake if you know what this texture should be. As mentioned before, fakes rely on an embossing process which literally heat-presses patterns into a base leather to give it the appearance of something else. But heat-pressing is by its nature a two-dimensional process, which can only extrude patterns either upwards or downwards into a base leather. Authentic snakeskin leather, on the other hand, is distinctly three-dimensional, and each unique scale will lift or bend when pushing your finger against the grain. It is impossible for the embossing effect to create this three-dimensionality, meaning that if the scales do not lift, then you're dealing with a fake.
Fortunately, once you know this it's easy to identify this difference visually without the need to touch the leather beforehand, which is very important when buying online. Above, you can really see the difference between an embossed fake and the real thing. The embossed leathers have an almost cartoon-like look to them, mostly because no machine can create the unique wrinkles of each scale shown in the Authentic image.
Update: A new fake snakeskin technique is now increasingly common. Instead of embossing the leather, a bladed machine creates hundreds of shallow diagonal cuts into the base leather so as to mimic the three-dimensionality of genuine python scales. It's fatal flaw? Look out for those unique little wrinkles that should be found on each of the scales. If they aren't there, then you're simply looking at a cheap and uncharacteristic base leather that has had the faux scales cut into it.
Conclusion: If the texture of the snakeskin does not appear to have the same three-dimensional or unique scale wrinkles mentioned here, walk away.
3. Always consider the cut of leather being used.
There are two ways that genuine snakeskin is cut from its original leather hide and crafted into the accessories we love. One is the "belly-cut", which places the largest line of scales in the centre of the product with the remaining scales gradually decreasing in size from the core. The other is the "side-cut", which focuses exclusively on the smaller scales to either side of the central belly-cut. Both versions have their admirers for different reasons: the belly-cut is more symmetrical whereas the side-cut is often richer in texture. It is important to know these two variations because any alternative to them means that you're looking at a poor attempt at imitation. This is especially the case if the cut of the leather shows scales that never change in size, because even the side-cut of genuine snakeskin leather goods gradually change in size from one side to another across at least one axis of the leather.
Also consider the physical size of the original hides of leather being used. The largest and most prized genuine snakeskin hides come from sustainably farmed pythons, The average width of which is only 28cm at its widest point. Even the largest recorded leathers of this type found anywhere in the world only reach around 60cm in width at the very maximum. Consequently, if you're looking at a particularly large snakeskin leather item, like a bag, that has dimensions that extend unbroken beyond these likely ranges, then you should ask questions about any claim of authenticity.
Conclusion: Once you know about the cuts of leather that can and can't be used in genuine snakeskin goods, you'll never be fooled again.
Each one of these tips should be powerful enough to help you navigate the pitfalls of buying fake snakeskin leathers, but even if you're not sure on one point, all three in combination should make you much more comfortable with your buying decisions. We will have more information on individual snakeskin leathers in upcoming blogs, especially how to care for them, so watch this space!
Civitas Regis is an Anglo-Italian leather crafting studio offering sustainable exotic leather goods designed in the Foothills of Florence.