December 10, 2016
By Candace Longfellow
HOW TO TELL IF YOUR HERMÈS KELLY BAG IS REAL
Jane may have the Birkin, but she isn’t the only style icon associated with the storied house of Hermès. Over twenty years before that beloved bag ever hit the scene, Grace Kelly was spotted propping up her broken arm with an Hermès silk scarf fashioned into a chic sling. On the set of her 1954 film To Catch a Thief, Kelly fell in love with an Hermès bag then known as the Sac á Dépêches, and quickly commissioned six of her own. She was later snapped using one to shield her baby bump from the paparazzi, prompting Hermès to rename the bag the Kelly. Though similar to the Birkin in many ways, the Kelly’s more compact interior, sophisticated lines and single top handle make it the ultimate lady bag. “Many brands, including Chanel and Gucci, have made bags in similar silhouettes and even called them the Kelly Bag, but Hermès is the original,” says Senior Director of Authentication Graham Wetzbarger. It contains over 2,600 stitches and takes at least 13 hours to construct, making it one of the most luxurious bags ever made. Like the Birkin, its scarcity has spawned legions of imposters, but the trained eye can always spot the difference. Read on to learn how to tell if yours is the real thing with tips from our expert.
Hermès Kelly Handle
“The top handle is incredibly difficult to make. It’s made of six pieces of leather, and takes three and a half hours to construct. A novice artisan will generally attempt 10 handles before he makes a good one,” explains Wetzbarger. “It has a flat underside and curved topside, and is extremely rigid and well-constructed. Bags made before 2001 have simple D-rings, but in 2001 and after, Hermès started to use a custom double D-ring, basically a split D-ring, where one side attaches to the handle, and the other is a free ring to attach a shoulder strap. All Kellys come with a shoulder strap, which will have the same heat stamp in the same color foil as the bag it accompanies.”
Hermès Kelly Plaque & Spindle
“The sangles, or straps, secure the bag closed and have metal plaques on either end. The rght-side plaque will have ‘Hermès – Paris’ engraved on it. Vintage styles will have ‘Paris’ below the brand name rather than beside it,” says Wetzbarger. “The spindle should be well-secured and have even tension going all the way around. When turning, it should not feel too tight nor too loose or have a gritty feeling. That would not be a sign of a high quality product.”
Hermès Kelly Blind Stamp & Heat Stamp
“The blind stamp is on the backside of the right sangle, under the side that is engraved ‘Hermès – Paris.’ Until 2015, Hermès used letters in alphabetical order surrounded by a shape to date their items. For example, Square Q is 2013, Square R is 2014. But because so many shoppers became familiar with their system, by the time January or February rolled around, the company would have a difficult time selling bags from the previous year since customers wanted the newest bags,” explains Wetzbarger. “They now use a secret proprietary code using only a single letter with no shape and no obvious order to the sequence. The heat stamp is located underneath the front flap and will read, ‘HERMÈS PARIS MADE IN FRANCE,’ though vintage bags made before 1954 may vary. It will be stamped in either silver or gold, but some will have a colorless debossed stamp. There are also special symbols to indicate exotic skins and special orders.”
Hermès Kelly Lock & Keys
“A lock and key accompany every bag, and they should be in the same hardware finish as the bag’s hardware, which is either gold-plated or palladium-plated,” says Wetzbarger. “The keys and locks are both debossed with matching numerical codes. The numbers should be really clean. Sometimes you’ll see hand-engraved or etched numbers, which is a sign they are counterfeit. Starting around 2007, Hermès began using a 4 or 5 digit lot number on the lock, so all of the more current styles should have that code.”
Hermès Kelly Zipper
“Because Hermès bought the patent for the zippers they use, they had exclusive rights to the zipper for several years and have always been very particular about their zips. On a Kelly, the zipper pull will always lie parallel to the teeth and should not dangle vertically into the pocket. The tab will be a folded piece of leather, cut into diamond shape in the same material and color as the bag. It is also marked “Hermès.” Starting in 2001, Hermès started using an H-shaped zipper instead of the standard square shape you might see on a basic zipper.”
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