Originally Posted by Jim McDougall
This is a beautiful and intriguing pistol!! especially that snakeskin. I had never imagined snakeskin being used in the Caucusus. Actually I had never thought of snakes there.
Any ideas as to what significance, other than perhaps simply aesthetic, may be at hand?
Well there are plenty of species of snake in that area of the world to source the skin from. Very few places in the world don't have any native snakes. Usually the only places where people live that one can expect less or no snakes are islands (though there are still plenty of islands that have a lot of snakes).
Something to note is that the maker went with a smooth/non-keeled species of snake. This has some significance toward aesthetics, as keeled scales (where each scale has a central ridge) are naturally matte in their finish; Whereas smooth scales are naturally shiny and often somewhat iridescent.
This piece at one point obviously had a lot of fire (gold gilding). Also that's a beautiful wood choice. So it makes sense that the maker didn't want to pair that with a dull skin even though it would have been an option. If you're going for shiny it's hard to beat a smooth scale snakeskin.
Also snakeskin doesn't really have a corium layer (that fuzzy suede like side that many leathers have). The backside is very paper like, which takes well to being glued. Overall a cured snakeskin is rather thin, flexible and not very elastic. It's an ideal material for this sort of application. Because it can be thinly applied with selective cuts to trace a shape without adding much in the way of bulk or weight.