Collecting guide: Hermès Exceptional Collection diamond handbags

Rachel Koffsky, Christie’s international head of Handbags & Accessories, on the ‘match made in heaven’ — when collectable Hermès bags are adorned with precious jewels. Illustrated with handbags offered at Christie’s

Hermès is synonymous with precious materials, iconic style and a fastidious devotion to craftsmanship. Whether the final product is a silk carré  in a kaleidoscope of colours, or a chunky lacquer H-bangle, every Hermès object evokes the luxury of the brand.

The handbags in the Hermès Exceptional Collection combine the products of two of the most important ateliers — leather goods and jewellery — and thus represent the pinnacle of Hermès luxury. The marriage of precious jewels and collectable handbags is a match made in heaven.

For collectors of Hermès handbags and jewellery, the Exceptional Collection is the ultimate in desirability. Capturing the attention of devotees worldwide, and achieving record-breaking prices, these rare pieces are the ones to watch when they appear at auction.

The Exceptional Diamond Hermès Birkin

The Hermès Birkin is considered by many to be most collectable bag in the world. Designed in the 1980s for British ingénue Jane Birkin, it has been transformed and reimagined many times since.

There is no more precious example than the Exceptional Birkin, with pavé-set diamonds and 18k white gold hardware in the plaques, the pontets, the spindle plate, and even the lock and keys.

An exceptional, Shiny Miel Porosus Crocodile Diamond Birkin 35 with 18k white gold & diamond hardware. Hermès, 2007.

Each hand-stitched and finished by a single expert craftsman, these exquisite pieces often feature more than 10 carats of white, brilliant diamonds, and 18k white gold weighing in at more than 170g.

The Exceptional Diamond Hermès Kelly

Very few examples of the Exceptional Diamond Kelly have ever appeared at auction, and vintage ones are particularly rare.

The Mini Kelly 20 is a discontinued model that is highly sought-after by collectors. The example above was crafted in 1992 and features 18k yellow gold hardware adorned with diamonds. The glossy black exterior paired with the shiny yellow gold accents is a classic combination.

In November 2020, a Kelly 25 with 18k white gold and diamond hardware sold for HK$1,500,000 at Christie’s in Hong Kong.

The Exceptional Diamond Hermès Constance

The Hermès Constance was designed by Catherine Chaillet more than 50 years ago. Unchanged in the half century since, the purse features a dramatic, oversize H-closure.

Elegant in form and practical in function, the Constance enabled women to carry their bag on their shoulder and keep their hands free.

A tour de force of Hermès craftsmanship, the example above shows the iconic H-closure transformed by a constellation of 444 brilliant, pavé-set diamonds with a total minimum weight of 8.57 carats.

The Exceptional Diamond Hermès Kelly Pochette & Kelly Cut Clutch

For the classic collector, the Exceptional Kelly Pochette is the perfect special-occasion evening bag. When the rare example above appeared at auction in 2019 it sold for £32,500 — more than three times the low estimate — after a frenzy of bidding by international clients.

For the more adventurous, the Kelly Cut Clutch has dramatic proportions paired with the classic Kelly-style sangle closure. Ideal for evening wear, it effectively works as a piece of jewellery.

The Hermès Himalaya Birkin

The Himalaya Birkin bag is legendary in Hermès collecting circles.

Its delicate gradation of shades, the result of a painstakingly difficult dyeing process, recalls the snowy Himalayan mountains.

When this Holy Grail of handbags is adorned with precious hardware, collectors take particular notice.

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In 2017, the Himalaya Birkin 30 shown above was offered at Christie’s in Hong Kong with a low estimate of HK$1,500,000. Fierce, competitive bidding saw the price climb to HK$2,980,000, breaking the world record for a handbag sold at auction.

The record stood for three years, until November 2020, when it was broken once again at Christie’s Hong Kong by a Himalaya Kelly 25 that achieved a price of HK$3,375,000.

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