Handbags and Accessories

Complete Buying Guide: Hermès Himalayan Birkin

By Lindsey Weiss
Shop Hermès Himalayan Birkin at Sotheby's
Hermès Birkin Himalaya

History of Hermès Himalayan Birkin

The elusive Hermès Himalayan Birkin - ever present on the arms of celebrities and socialites and atop the wishlists of Hermès collectors worldwide. They may seem ubiquitous to those of us who live and breathe Hermès bags, but mystery is what gives the Hermès Birkin Himalaya its power. According to some it's made from rare Himalayan crocodiles (what a whimsical idea). Its true namesake oxymoron is just the tip of the iceberg for this bag's many mysteries. How is this delicate Ombré effect achieved? Part has to do with the skin’s natural color qualities, but the rest is a result of meticulous finishing techniques. The end result is a perfect evocation of the world's highest mountain range. Contrary to their chart-topping value, a himalaya bag can be used without much risk of lasting noticeable wear. The matte finish and stippled gray degradé mask most common signs of use, making himalaya bags a pretty safe investment (with both pretty and safe having multiple meanings!).

The Hermès Himalayan takes its true inspiration from early crocodile handbags that, if not dyed black or brown, would be lightened to highlight the skin's natural coloring. This natural ombré went out of style as dyeing techniques improved and color created more and more possibilities for exotics. In the early 1990’s, Hermès began development on a new glossy ombré crocodile that would become known as Natura Vert Celadon. This bag is the first link in the Hermès Himalayan chain that continues to grow to this day.

The earliest known Hermès Himalayan Celadon was produced in 1994, with the final examples leaving Hermès’ ateliers in 2008. That same year a new Hermès Himalayan Birkin would emerge. The new handbag would define collecting for at least the next 15 years. Initially the Matte Himalayan Birkin 30 were kept secret and only sold to top collectors. This new, unique style was only known to the most dedicated Hermès bag collectors. That is, until 2010 when Jean-Paul Gaultier sent a Hermès Birkin Himalaya down the spring runway. From that moment on the Hermès Himalayan Birkin was the bag to have. The Hermès Himalayan Birkin 30 and Birkin 35 have been spotted dating back to 2008 and 2009 respectively. The first Hermès Himalayan Bikin 25 wasn't released until 2012.

Hermès Birkin Himalaya

What to Consider Before Buying Hermès Birkin Himalaya

While the overall ombré of a Himalayan bag goes from light down the center to dark along the sides, each Hermès Himalayan Birkin sports a unique pattern that can be compared against other Hermès Himalayan Birkin. The first aspect to consider is the contrast from center to edge. Some Hermès Birkin Himalaya bags have incredibly white centers and stark, almost black sides, creating a more dramatic two-tone effect to the ombre, while others have a more even, often lighter tone across the whole bag. Some examples will have lines of gray creeping into the center, while others will have more prominent frisson ‘rings’ in the dark areas. All of these aspects are personally subjective to taste and preference.

Another aspect of coloration to consider is the symmetry of Ombré on the sangles and handles. Hermès Himalayan Birkin handles are rarely symmetrical in their coloration, but some have more even tone than others. Sangles, on the other hand, can vary dramatically, with some having noticeable ombré on one and pure white on the other, some having symmetrical coloring on both sangles, and some with no color at all. There is some debate as to the differences between ‘white’ and ‘brown’ himalayas. Both, to be clear, are considered the same by Hermès, but collectors like to differentiate between Hermès Himalayan with a truly white center, and those with an off-white center. The true ‘brown’ himalayas are the ultra-rare Gris Cendre Himalayans, which ombre from gray in the center to brown on the sides. The Gris Cendre is about 20 times more rare than a classic Hermès Himalaya, with only five examples selling at auction in the last seven years. Gris Cendre Hermès Himalaya Kellys are even more rare and none have ever sold at auction. These dusky bags have a Fauve brown interior, which makes the whole coloration warm and earthy. The final aspect to consider is the bag’s base. The vast majority of Hermès Birkin Himalaya (and all crocodile Birkins, for that matter) have rectangular scales along the base, but exceptional examples have symmetrical belly scales just like on the front and back. A centered base is the rarest aspect a Hermès Himalayan bag can have.

Hermès Birkin Himalaya

Hermès Himalayan Birkin Price

Currently an Hermès Himalayan Birkin 25 retails between $45,000 and $65,000 at the boutique (prices can vary by country and with local taxes). In the US the retail price is currently around $61,700. Larger styles retail for more. This trend, though, is reversed on the secondary market where smaller bags bring higher prices. In 2017 the average price for Hermès Himalayan Bags at auction was just over $106,000 with the record held by a Hermès Himalayan Kelly 25 that achieved just over $150,000. Fast forward and the record is still held by a Kelly 25, but the top number has ballooned to over $435,000. Diamond Hermès Himalayan Bags selling for even higher. Over the last five years, Hermès Himalaya bags have increased in value at auction by an average of 21% annually, though the rates of increase for smaller bags are even more impressive, with Hermès Himalayan Kelly 25 climbing at 24% and Birkin 25 at 37% and Hermès Himalayan Kelly 28 at 43%. Today, the average for any of these three sizes at auction is over $200,000, with Kelly 28 leading the pack at just over $300,000.

The Hermès Himalayan Birkin 30 is by far the most common Hermès Himalaya bag, but it is also one of the most popular. Simultaneously big enough for regular use, yet petite enough for evening. It is the perfect fit for many collectors, and the perfect start to a Hermès Himalayan collection. Nearly 40% of all Hermès Himalayan bags at auction are Birkin 30. The average value of the Hermès Himalayan Birkin 30 tops those of the more elusive Hermès Kelly 32 and Birkin 35, clocking in at nearly $155,000 in 2021. A record $226,180 was achieved by Sotheby’s on July 9th of 2021 for the Hermès Himalayan Birkin 30.

While Diamond Hermès Birkins have long been the exception to the rule that all Birkin bags increase in value on the secondary market, Diamond Hermès Himalayan Birkins are selling above retail. The Diamond Hermès Birkin Himalaya was been averaging around $315,000 at auction, but retail in the range of $250,000 at Hermes today. In 2022, a Diamond Himalayan Birkin 30 from 2021 sold for $450,000 via private sale

Hermès Birkin Himalaya

Hermès Himalayan Birkin Diamond

The iconic Diamond Hermès Himalayan Birkin is the most expensive handbag ever sold at auction. Hermès Himalayan bags are also the most expensive sold via private sale at Sotheby's. In 2022, a Diamond Himalayan Birkin from 2021 for $450,000 via private sale. The white-to-gray gradation of the coveted Hermès Himalayan Birkin is meant to evoke the snow-capped Himalaya Mountains, a fitting name for a bag that sits atop the highest peak in the world of Hermès bag collecting. This coloring pairs perfectly with 18-karat white gold hardware, which is itself studded with white diamonds. The padlock and two keys and all of the metal on the Diamond Himalayan Birkin is 18K white gold. The Diamond Himalayan Birkin has approximately 251 pavé diamonds weighing approximate total of 1.40 carats inlaid on plaqué, pontet, and touret. Approximately 40 pavé diamonds weighing an approximate total of 1.40 carats are inlaid on 18K white gold padlock.

How to Buy a Hermès Himalayan Birkin

If you are unable to purchase an Hermès Himalayan Birkin at a boutique, Sotbeby's offers a few ways to purchase the Hermès bag. Sotheby's has auctions in New York, Hong Kong, France and Geneva that regularly includes a Hermès Himalayan Birkin. Sotheby's also has a Buy Now Marketplace that sometimes has a Hermès Birkin Himalaya listed for sale. The exact Hermès Birkin Himalaya that is available on either channel can vary due to the rarity of the bag. Finally if you don't see the preferred condition and size, Sotheby's can source a Hermès Himalayan Birkin via it's Concierge Service.

Contact a Sotheby's Handbag Specialist if you would like more information about an Hermès Himalayan Birkin.

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