The North American alligator has been removed from the endangered species list as of 1987. It is now raised on farms due to its commercial value. The Chinese or Asian alligator does remain on the endangered list. The quality of these skins is not as fine as the American alligator.
The alligator skin which is used today can be found in swamps and slow moving streams in Florida up to North Carolina. Alligator skin is very tough and durable. The actual back is ridged with many small bones which are called osteoderms. The belly however is very smooth and this is what we often see the higher quality handbags and shoes, etc. made from.
Some tips for identifying real and faux alligator purses are:
1) faux skin may show too much repetition of the same patterning
2) an authentic skin may show the umbilical scar
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