When we think luxury, we think Hermès. When we go a tad further and think beyond ‘mere’ luxury, one thought prevails: Hermès Himalayan. As one of the rarest and most exclusive handbags in the world, any mention of a Himalayan Birkin or Kelly can make even the most distinguished handbag aficionado salivate. Himalayans are, without doubt, the crème de la crème of the luxury world.
Indeed, many believe the Himalayan to be peerless: the ultimate Holy Grail Bag. (Read: What’s Your Holy Grail Bag?) A Himalayan is near-impossible to find, far more costly than a traditional Birkin or Kelly, and a unique piece of wearable art, which—if you’re in the know—is instantly recognizable.
Despite all the allure, how much do we really know about the Hermès Himalayan bag? PurseBop has uncovered all the facts on the production of the exotic bag, as well as the details on the bags’ auction records, to provide you with the ultimate Himalayan guide. And if you’re still not convinced of the Himalayan’s exalted status after the facts, beautifully-written testimonials by elite collectors—including @hsixx, the “King of Exotics”—are sure to change your mind.
Himalayan Bag Facts
- Q: What exactly is a Himalayan bag?
- A: An Hermès Himalayan is a bag—either a Birkin or a Kelly—with white, gray, and tan tones, made from Niloticus crocodile, an African (not Himalayan!) animal. The “entry-level” version boasts palladium hardware, while the most exclusive Himalayans have white gold hardware encrusted with diamonds.
- Q: How is the leather treated?
- A: The bag requires a painstaking and time-consuming dyeing process, evidenced in the uniquely beautiful gradation technique. This coloring is what makes the bag so deeply special. “White is the hardest color to achieve with crocodile skin, as you have to remove all of its natural pigment,” Matt Rubinger, International Director of Handbags and Accessories at Christie’s, told the New York Times. JaneFinds, a famed Hermès broker, has also discussed the difficulty of this dyeing process with Vogue.
- Q: So the Himalayan can be either a Birkin or a Kelly?
- A: Indeed! Originally, Hermès only offered Himalayan Birkins, but the coveted model is now available as the Kelly as well, which is often considered even rarer than the Birkin.
- Q: Why is it named the “Himalayan” bag?
- A: Since the materials themselves do not originate in the Himalayas, where did the treasured bag get its name? Simple answer: the coloring. The meticulously-dyed crocodile, with its seamless gradation, is meant to evoke the snowy mountains of the Himalayas. The white of the snow is juxtaposed to the rocky gray in natural majesty. We’d say the Himalayan earns its name.
- Q: What is the general price point of Himalayan Birkins and Kellys?
- A: The “entry-level” Himalayans, with PHW, are typically found for about $90,000 resale. (There is an example of one here.) Famously, Himalayan bags with GHW and diamonds can fetch, on occasion, over $300,000 at auction—something we’ll discuss more in depth shortly. These extra-exclusive Himalayans are expected to be about $300,000 at the Hermès boutique and are only offered to highly-respected VIP clients.
- Q: How many Himalayans are generally in production?
- A: It’s difficult to say exactly how many are in production each year. While you have to be a well-respected and lucky client to receive a Himalayan offer, some exotics collectors have lamented the fact that the bag is becoming *slightly* less rare than it once was. Still, a Himalayan is probably the most difficult Hermès bag to acquire. As for the diamond-encrusted GHW Himalayans, the NYT has speculated that only one or two are created each year. The bag truly lives up to its elusive reputation.
- Q: How do collectors see Hermès Himalayan bags?
- A: As you might expect from the rarity of the Himalayan, collectors tend to view the bag as the ultimate HGB. To many a collector, the Himalayan is not just a handbag, but the pinnacle of the storied maison—a delicate work of Hermès art.
The most expensive handbag ever sold? You guessed it: Hermès Himalayan, on multiple occasions…
May 2017 Auction
In May, PurseBop stayed up into the wee hours of the morning to watch the Christie’s live auction in Hong Kong. (Read: Birkin Breaks Records: Sells for 380,000 at Christie’s Auction)
The exceptional, matte white Himalaya niloticus crocodile Diamond Birkin 30 with 18k white gold & diamond hardware sold for $308,152, totaling $380,000 with the buyers premium. The bag remains the most expensive handbag ever sold.
May 2016 Auction
Before the 2017 auction, we covered the sale of a nearly-identical Birkin sold at the May 2016 Christie’s Auction in Hong Kong. It’s hard to distinguish between the two Himalayans, but we are told there are subtle differences in the gold and rarity of diamonds used in the hardware.
The final sale of $300,168 surpassed Christie’s bidding predictions of around $190,000 to $260,000. Prior to this, the records remained in the low $200,000s.
Considering both Himalayan Birkins have, at one point, been the most expensive handbags in the world, we’d say it’s fair to call the Himalayan the most prized piece in the industry.
@hsixx: My favorite Himalayan of the several in my collection is my Gris Cendre Kelly 32. I particularly love this one for the rarity of it. I have never bumped into anyone with the same piece, making me twins in the room. I feel the white Himalayan, especially the Birkin, has become very common amongst collectors. It’s not the rare collector’s piece it used to be. Of my white Himalayans I favor my Kelly 25, again for its exclusiveness. And what I love about the Himalayans is when I use them in the rain (or water…LOL), they are still the same. (Read @hsixx’s BopTalk post that discusses his Birkin Hima: Your Top 3 Holy Grail Bags)
@ec24m: The Himalayan is so desirable because it honestly goes with every outfit and occasion. If I have to just choose one bag to travel with, this will be it! It is so glamorous, luxurious and yet neutral. Definitely such a precious value add to my collection, and of course the diamond one is just like an art piece!
@howshespendsit: I can go into the rarity of Nilo crocodile, the difficulty of the dyeing process, etc., but I won’t. The rarity of the skin (or the perception of it) is what makes having a Himalayan Birkin or Kelly so unique. Did I ever want a white crocodile bag as part of my collection? To be honest, I stay away from white bags no matter how stunning, as I tend to use mine roughly, so no. But a true Hermès lover’s collection is incomplete without one, so I was absolutely thrilled when I got mine! She is an absolute beauty, and I handle her with the utmost care she deserves!
@swedishandstylish: I love this bag because the unique coloration is a natural variation of the Niloticus. Every Himalaya is unique and special in it’s own way.
@sapphiresandscotch: My collection is definitely on another level because of the acquisition of my B30 Hima—I feel fortunate to have been offered her when so many wait years and years! I still have a few colors I want to add to my family, but she is definitely the crown jewel!” (Read her lovely reveal story: Her Highness: The Hermès Himalayan Birkin)
@upcloseandstylish: My all-time Holy Grail Bag is, without a doubt, my Himalayan. It was such a thrill getting THAT phone call and seeing them opening the box for the first time…
@__geminiigirl__18: The fact that all Birkin bags are handmade is a testament to the brand’s craftsmanship and artisans. Every bag is created after long, arduous hours that involve many different and meticulous steps all of which require mastery and finesse. Particularly for the Himalayan bag which I own, made of Nilo Crocodile, the process that goes into making it is painstaking and elaborate. The look of the bag gives the impression of the grand Himalayan Mountain range and only a true artisan can perfect and create that. In today’s day and age where everything is factory assembled, knowing that you own a piece of someone’s skill and craftsmanship is a unique and valuable feeling in itself. It certainly makes me feel like I own a piece of art. The dexterity that goes into making the bag gives each owner a feeling of true happiness and exclusivity. It makes my collection all the more unique and individualistic.
And that’s a wrap—all you could ever want to know about Hermès’ rarest bags. Are you as enamored with Himalayans as we are? Is a Himalayan a Holy Grail Bag in your eyes? Which bag do you prefer in the luxurious leather: Birkin or Kelly? Let us know your thoughts on these distinguished bags.
Read related articles below:
What’s Your Holy Grail Bag?
Birkin Breaks Records: Sells for 380,000 at Christie’s Auction
Her Highness: the Hermes Himalayan Birkin
Hermes Birkin vs. Kelly 101
The Hermes Birkin – The Ultimate Holy Grail Bag
Aging Gracefully with Hermès Barenia Leather
Hermès 101: Hermès Ghillies