Handbags at a new dawn as Hermès Himalaya Birkin bag makes £190,000

The Hermès Himalaya Birkin bag is often described as the most desirable handbag in the world. And so it proved earlier this month when an example set an auction record for a handbag sold in Europe.

Extracted from Antiques Trade Gazette | Roland Arkell

A 2010 Hermès Himalaya crocodile Birkin 35 with white gold and diamond hardware, which sold for £190,000 at Christie’s.

Made from Nile crocodile hide – typically complemented by white gold or palladium hardware – this deluxe version of the Birkin takes its name from the delicate gradation of the colour achieved by a painstaking dying process. The smoky grey hue fading into a pearly white is thought to resemble the snow-capped peaks of the Himalayas.

The bag has a reported private sale record of $432,000.

Many of the most expensive handbags sold at auction are variants of the Himalaya Birkin or the Himalaya Kelly.

In 2016, at Christie’s 30th anniversary Hong Kong auction, a 2008 Himalaya Birkin 30 with 18 carat white gold and diamond studded hardware for a premium-inclusive £232,000 – a record broken the following year when, again at Christie’s Hong Kong, a 2014 Himalaya Birkin 30 realised £293,000.

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On December 12, Christie’s winter season in London concluded with the biannual Handbags & Accessories auction which totalled just shy of £3m and achieved a lively sell-through rates of 93% by lot.

Again the top lot of the sale was a Hermès Himalaya Birkin – this example made in 2010 to the slightly larger 35cm wide specification. At the hammer price of £190,000 (estimate £100,000-150,000), it established a new European record for a handbag sold at auction – bettering the £130,000 bid for another Himalaya Birkin 30 the auctioneers had sold in the equivalent sale in June.

Custom-made or limited edition Hermès bags, many of them 2017 and 2018 models, were avidly pursued throughout the sale. A 2017 Quelle Idole – a rare iteration crafted of matte alligator skin with leather accents – sold at £55,000 (estimate £35,000-40,000).

Also known as the Kelly Doll on account of its cutesy face, arms and feet, this bag, designed in collaboration with then Hermès chairman Jean-Louis Dumas, was first issued as a millennium project in 2000. Since its reissue, the bag has become one of Hermès most sought-after limited edition pieces.