From searching steaming back-jungle swamps of alligators to scouring sun-baked deserts for rattlesnakes, luxury good makers go to great lengths to outfit high-end accoutrements in ever more exotic pelts. Hold one of the items from Alfred Dunhill's newest line of accessories and it will seem that the British outfitter has left the real world altogether to get this skin; the line's mosaic-patterned hides speckled with greens, browns and yellows look like something from the underside of Godzilla's tail. Actually, it is stingray skin and it comes from the ocean, but it is nonetheless almost as exotic and durable as the cinematic monster.
Dunhill uses it to cover a flask, table lighter, pocket lighter and cigar case. The flask is plated in rhodium and the lighters are brass- and palladium-plated. The flask comes with a thimble shot on top. The lighters, while having the appearance of the classic flint-flame lighters, breathe forth a butane-blue windproof jet flame.
While stingray skin (also called shagreen and galuchat) is lately enjoying a fashion trend in the luxury leather market, it has been prized in Japan since the eighth century for its beautiful jewel-like texture and extreme resistance to wear, being notably used on sword handles. It was introduced in Europe in the court of Louis XV and was later important in the Art Deco movement.
Stingrays are not considered endangered or threatened. The hides come as by-products of fishing stingray for food in the sea shallows of the Far East, where it is an important part of the diet for many. Much of the high cost of the skin is a result of its laborious, three- to four-week treatment process. Synthetic skins with simulated stingray patterns are sold cheaper, but have nowhere near the resistance to wearing or tearing of the real thing as used in the Dunhill products. Not much upkeep is required. As you might expect, the skins are impervious to water damage and only need an occasional swipe with a damp cotton cloth.
Made in England and available exclusively through Dunhill retail outlets and selected specialty shops, the Dunhill flask retails for $900, the table lighter, $2,500, the cigar case, $750, and the pocket lighter, $1,050.