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Up, close and personal with the Birkin -- the most coveted bag in the world

Up, close and personal with the Birkin -- the most coveted bag in the world

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.

The Himalaya Kelly and the Himlaya Birkin are crafted from Nile crocodile hide. The Himalaya Kelly and the Himlaya Birkin are crafted from Nile crocodile hide.

Confession: I am a 'bagaholic' and on a recent visit to New York I finally got to see the holy grail of all handbags - the Hermes Birkin. One look at the beautiful grey leather fading into white, resembling the snow-capped Himalayas, and I knew why lovers of the Himalaya Birkin and its sister bag, the Himalaya Kelly, are willing to pay upwards of $200,000 for what some might think is after all just a bag.  

“The Birkin is an iconic bag. It is made in such a way that it will stand the test of time. It’s handmade by very trained craftsmen in the same way that Hermes makes saddles. It’s an iconic model that will not go out of style,” Rachel Koffsky, the SVP, International Head of Department for Handbags & Accessories at Christie’s tells me, even as I admire some of the stunning bags going up for auction at the Handbags Online: The New York Edit

Bidding for 250 lots starts on November 28 and is on till December 9th. The sale includes bags from Hermes, Chanel, Dior, Fendi, Louis Vuitton and others. 

The highlight is a matte white Himalaya Niloticus Crocodile Diamond Retourné Kelly 35 with 18k white gold and diamond hardware. It has an estimated price of $200,000-$300,000. “It’s considered the most collectible bag in the world. We have sold it for upto $500,000. We hold the record for the most expensive Himalayan Kelly sold at auction,” says Koffsky. 

The Himalaya Kelly and the Himlaya Birkin are 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 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. 

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 record was broken when a matte Himalaya Niloticus crocodile diamond Birkin with 18k white gold and diamond hardware fetched £236,750 in London. 

Continuing with the records, in May 2021 a rare matte white Himalaya Niloticus Retourne Kelly 28 with palladium hardware fetched HK$2,750,000 ($355,000) in Hong Kong. 

Will more records be broken at the Handbags Online: The New York Edit? Bag collectors and enthusiasts will be watching closely.
 

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Published on: Nov 28, 2022, 6:18 PM IST
Posted by: Tarab Zaidi, Nov 28, 2022, 6:13 PM IST