It's been described as a piece of "fashion history" by auction house Christie's. A matte white Diamond Himalaya Niloticus crocodile diamond Birkin 30 with 18k white gold and diamond hardware, was sold by a private Asian collector for $300,168 on Monday, making it the most expensive handbag ever sold at auction.
"The diamond pieces created by Hermes are exceptional, but none are nearly as iconic as the Himalaya," Christie's said in a press release prior to the sale. "It is believed that only one or two of the Diamond Himalayas are produced each year, globally, making it one of the lowest production runs for handbags."
Beauty of the Birkin
The results follow last year's record-breaking $222,000
sale of a fuchsia diamond-studded Hermes Birkin, and further cement the bag's celebrated fashion credentials.
"Its rarity and exclusivity, the quality of leather and craftsmanship, its style and the ability to customize," all contribute to making this the most valuable bag in the world today, according to New York-based appraiser Helaine Fendelman, of Helaine Fendelman & Associates.
The fact they are instantly recognizable without a large emblazoned logo only adds to their appeal, she added, although clever marketing by Hermes also helps.
"By not telling ladies how many are manufactured in a year, the idea that these are scarce makes them more desirable. It is human nature to want what others cannot get," Fendelman said.
Both Christie's and Fendelman agree that even the most basic Birkins hold their price, making them a sound investment as well as an impressive fashion statement.
"I remember when I wanted to purchase a Birkin bag at auction for about $7,500 and my husband thought I had lost my mind," she said. "That same bag today sells for double that price, at least."
Interest in these aftermarket bags ("second-hand" doesn't have quite the same ring to it) has grown rapidly, and Christie's now includes an accessories and handbags section in many of it's major sales around the world.
While many women used to bid on the bags for their practicality and style, the promise of increasing value has become an important consideration.
Winsy Tsang, head of sales for handbags and accessories at Christie's in Hong Kong, said the value of these types of auction items generally increase, and that although Hermes leads the way, handbags from Bulgari, Chanel and Gucci were also popular as investment pieces.
"They are certainly an increasingly meaningful asset class," Tsang added.
As for Fendelman's Birkin, much to her husband's relief -- and her own, in retrospect -- she missed out on the sale.
"Am I sorry I didn't purchase the bag? No, not really, because I would be afraid to use it every day for fear of ruining it," she said.