Unlike American alligators, crocodiles are found across the globe. From a fashion standpoint, this means that it is possible (albeit rare) to find genuine crocodile leather at an attractive value. More likely, these "bargain" crocodile handbags are one of three kinds of imitations: embossed plastic, embossed cowhide, or caiman (a crocodylian reptile) leather.
Crocodile Leather vs. Embossed Plastic
Spray the leather surface with water.
Allow the item to sit undisturbed for 3 to 5 minutes.
Smell the surface: genuine crocodile leather will release a fishy, swampy, or salty smell.
Use to magnifying glass to inspect for repeating patterns. This sign indicates that an embossing stencil was used.
Crocodile Leather vs. Embossed Cow Hide
Inspect the scales with the magnifying glass. Crocodile scales possess small dimple-like holes/pores in the top center. See "References" for a visual guide.
View the surface of the leather sideways. Crocodile scales are not flat or plateaued. Rather, they slope slightly. The ridges between scales are also deeper.
Cut the inner lining of the bag to view the underside of the leather. Crocodile scales have the same pattern on both sides. Embossed cowhide will have a rough interior surface of short, twisted fibers.
Crocodile Leather vs. Caiman Leather
If dyed, check to see that the color is uniform throughout. Caiman leather has calcium deposits that interfere with dye absorption, creating bluish streaks.
Bend the leather surface. Caiman leather has a tendency to form cracks between scales, whereas crocodile is very pliable.
Use the magnifying glass to check for a dimple/pore in each scale. Only crocodiles possess these integumentary sensory organ (ISO) pores on their bellies.