Deconstructed: The Hermès Himalaya

Why collectors are in thrall to the extraordinary craftsmanship behind the creation of the ultimate bag — illustrated with bags offered at Christie’s

The ravishing Hermès Himalaya Birkin Bag is considered the Holy Grail in a Handbag collection, while the Himalaya Kelly 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 rare, matte gris cendré Himalaya Niloticus Crocodile Diamond Birkin 30 with 18k white gold & diamond hardware. Hermès, 2013. Estimate HK$1,000,000-$1,500,000. Offered in Handbags & Accessories 10 July 2020 at Christie’s in Hong Kong
A rare, matte gris cendré Himalaya Niloticus Crocodile Diamond Birkin 30 with 18k white gold & diamond hardware. Hermès, 2013. Estimate: HK$1,000,000-$1,500,000. Offered in Handbags & Accessories 10 July 2020 at Christie’s in Hong Kong
  • 1
  • A gradation that resembles the majestic, snow-capped Himalayas

The Himalaya Birkin 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 process of dyeing a crocodile hide 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.

Find out more about our updated online sales calendar

  • 2
  • 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 House.

A rare, matte white Himalaya Niloticus Crocodile Birkin 30 with palladium hardware, Hermès, 2019. 30 w x 22 h x 15 d cm. Estimate $80,000-100,000. Offered in Handbags & Accessories Online on 28 July 2020 at Christie’s in New York.
A rare, matte white Himalaya Niloticus Crocodile Birkin 30 with palladium hardware, Hermès, 2019. 30 w x 22 h x 15 d cm. Estimate: $80,000-100,000. Offered in Handbags & Accessories Online on 28 July 2020 at Christie’s in New York.
  • 3
  • 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. 

A rare, matte white Himalaya Niloticus Crocodile Retourné Kelly 32 with palladium hardware, Hermès, 2014. Sold for £100,000 on 12 June 2017 at Christie’s in London
A rare, matte white Himalaya Niloticus Crocodile Retourné Kelly 32 with palladium hardware, Hermès, 2014. Sold for £100,000 on 12 June 2017 at Christie’s in London
  • 4
  • 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.

A matte Himalaya Niloticus Crocodile Plume 28 with palladium hardware, Hermès, 2016. 28 w x 20 h x 10 d cm. Price on request. Offered for Private Sale at Christie’s

A matte Himalaya Niloticus Crocodile Plume 28 with palladium hardware, Hermès, 2016. 28 w x 20 h x 10 d cm. Price on request. Offered for Private Sale at Christie’s

  • 5
  • 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 an auction 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.

An exceptional matte white Himalaya Niloticus Crocodile Diamond Birkin 30 with 18K white gold & diamond hardware, Hermès, 2014. 30 x 22 x 15 cm. Sold for HK$2,940,000 on 31 May 2017 at Christie’s in Hong Kong
An exceptional matte white Himalaya Niloticus Crocodile Diamond Birkin 30 with 18K white gold & diamond hardware, Hermès, 2014. 30 x 22 x 15 cm. Sold for HK$2,940,000 on 31 May 2017 at Christie’s in Hong Kong

Sign up today

Christie's Online Magazine delivers our best features, videos, and auction news to your inbox every week

Subscribe

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. On 12 December 2018 in London, this was broken with a rare and exceptional Matte Himalaya Niloticus crocodile diamond Birkin 35 with 18k white gold and diamond hardware, made by Hermès in 2010, which fetched £236,750.

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