A ten-year-old Himalaya Birkin has broken the European record for a handbag sold at auction when it fetched a whopping AU$287,032 in London.
Encrusted with 450 diamonds and plenty of white gold, the distinctively coloured crocodile skin bag is the most coveted version of the iconic Hermes Birkin range.
Fewer than 50 are believed to exist worldwide, so it’s no surprise it was able to nudge past the previous auction record of $274,000.
The matte white Himalaya was developed by Hermes in 2008, its name inspired by the smoky greys and whites of the snow-capped Himalayan mountains.
At 30cm, it is smaller than the original Birkin and made from the hide of farm-raised Nile crocodiles, an African strain of the species that has relatively few bones and is therefore said to have a smoother skin.
The bag’s white gold diamond-encrusted detailing adds to the value, as does the fact so few have been made.
The world record-holding Himalaya bag, which sold in Hong Kong last year for $518,380 was ‘Grade 1,’ meaning it was brand new, whereas the one sold in London on June 12 was in Grade 2 condition, which means it has been used.
Differences in condition can mean as much as 20 per cent in value.
While most second-hand handbags depreciate in value, Hermes Birkins are one of the very few designs to sell for more on the secondary market than their original price.
Some generate returns of about 30 per cent a year, and a study by Baghunter — an online marketplace for buying and selling luxury handbags — found Birkin bags have actually outperformed both the American stock market and the price of gold.
The French luxury fashion house Hermes designed what became known as the Birkin in 1981.
Named after the singer and actress Jane Birkin, it has become one of the most sought-after accessories in the world, but it began as a quest for the perfect hold all.
Birkin had met the chief executive of Hermes on a flight from Paris to London, where he offered to design her a hold all and asked if the company could name it after her.
She said she was “flattered to death and said yes, yes, yes”. Suddenly everyone was “wandering around with your handbag”, she said.
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