Deconstructed: The Hermès Himalaya

Why collectors are in thrall to the extraordinary craftsmanship behind the creation of the ultimate bag — and why the Diamond Himalaya is the most desirable handbag in existence. Illustrated with Himalayas offered at Christie’s

The ravishing Hermès Himalaya Birkin bag is considered the Holy Grail in a handbag collection, while the Himalaya Kelly bag is fabled as ‘The Rarest Handbag in the World’. How did this handbag achieve such cachet? The answer lies in the construction of this wearable work of art, a striking blend of superlative design with fabulous materials.

A gradation that resembles the majestic, snow-capped Himalayas

The Himalaya Kelly is crafted from Nile crocodile hide. The designation ‘Himalaya’ does not apply to the origin of the bag, but rather to the delicate gradation of the colour. The smoky grey fades into a pearly white, resembling the majestic, snow-capped Himalayas. The dyeing process is time-consuming and exponentially more difficult as the shades lighten — to create the immaculate white of the snow and the gradation to rocky grey requires great skill and a fine eye.

The ultimate expression of artistry

The finished product is wondrous to behold. Marrying precious materials and craftsmanship with the Hermès equestrian heritage, the Himalaya Birkin is the ultimate expression of the artistry and tradition of the storied Hermès maison.

A collecting phenomenon

The introduction of the original series of Himalaya Birkins spawned a collecting phenomenon. Handbag collectors around the world recognised the rarity and exquisite craftsmanship behind the Himalaya. Consequently, in a resounding response to the appetite of collectors, Hermès began to craft a limited number Himalaya Kelly bags for top clients.

The Himalaya Kelly

Produced in the most limited of numbers, the Himalaya Kelly is a perfect marriage of the subtle gradation of the Himalaya and the elegance of the Kelly. The Himalaya Kelly is both an heirloom and a work of art.

The most desirable handbag in existence

In 2016, Christie’s 30th Anniversary Hong Kong auction sold a Himalaya Birkin bag with white gold and diamond hardware for a world record price of $300,168.

In May 2017, Christie’s in Hong Kong again broke the world record for the most expensive bag ever sold at auction when a white crocodile Hermès Himalaya encrusted with 10.23 carats of diamonds realised £293,000.

In June 2018, a Himalaya Birkin with an 18-carat, white gold, diamond-encrusted lock sold for £162,500 at Christie’s London, becoming the most expensive handbag ever in a European auction. Before the end of the year this was broken with a 2010 Matte Himalaya Niloticus Crocodile Diamond Birkin 35 with 18k white gold and diamond hardware, which fetched £236,750 in London.

In May 2021 a rare matte white Himalaya Niloticus Retourné Kelly 28 with palladium hardware sold for HK$2,750,000 ($355,000) in Hong Kong, and in November, this world record price was again eclipsed when Christie’s sold a matte white Himalaya Niloticus Kelly 28 with 18k white gold and diamond hardware for HK$4,000,000 ($513,000).

Sign up for Going Once, a weekly newsletter delivering our top stories and art market insights to your inbox

At Christie’s Paris in November 2022, a Sellier Himalaya Kelly 25 appeared at auction for the first time, achieving £189,000.

These incredible results solidify what handbag collectors worldwide already know — the Diamond Himalaya bag is the most desirable handbag in existence.

Related departments

Related lots

Related auctions

Related content