Authenticating a Hermes Bag -7 Steps to Recognize a Fake

Established as a harness shop in 1827, Hermes was created to cater to the horse riding world. It was during the time of making leather horse riding gears such as bridles and saddles that Hermes perfected its excellent craftsmanship. With time, Hermes expanded its range of products, adding leather bags for saddles (Haut à Courroies) in 1900 and later on clothing and accessories around the 1920s.

authenticating a hermes bag

The luxury handbags which are now a staple today were also a product of Hermes’ success with travel bags, which were released in 1925. The “Sac à dépêches” which we know today as the iconic “Kelly” bag was first released in 1935, while production of the beautiful Hermes silk scarves also known as “carrés” started in 1937.

Hermes’ ultimate luxury statement was debuted in 1982 as the Birkin handbag after Jean-Louis Dumas who was the Hermes CEO at the time had a famous encounter with super-famous Hollywood legend Jane Birkin, during a trip from Paris to London. The price of Birkin handbags is in a different range from the basic models, which are as low as $7,000 to $8,000 and go as high as $300,000 for premium models such as exotic crocodile skins.

Because Hermes handbags are so expensive and desired, they have become a major target for forgers who sell replicas for prices that are too good to be true. Hermes does not have a bag authenticated if you request a boutique.

However, having solid information about authentication will help you identify what is real even among the most detailed replicas out there. So how do you check the authenticity of a Hermes Kelly or Birkin bag? Professionals check the authenticity of Hermes Kelly and Birkin bags in many different ways, but the following areas are the common checking points. Here is an outline.

7-Step Authenticity Verification for a Hermes Kelly or Birkin Bag:

  1. Inspect the shape and proportions of the bag.
  2. Confirm the size and measurements.
  3. Examine the choice and quality of materials.
  4. Check the stitching pattern.
  5. Examine the hardware.
  6. Look at the date stamp
  7. Confirm the brand stamp.

1. Inspect the Shape and Proportions of the Bag.

Let’s begin with the appearance. The Birkin and the Kelly are both polished-looking handbags, with beautiful, crisp lines and magnificent, clear-cut silhouettes. There are two styles of Kelly handbags: the Sellier and the Retourne. They are different in the kind of stitching, which gives each a unique shape.

The Retourne is stitched on the interior of the bag, providing a seamless appearance and softer attributes. The interior stitches also give no room for rigidity, which makes the Retourne slouch once it is placed upright.

On the other hand, the stitches on the Sellier are outside the bag. Therefore, the stitches are tighter and the craftsman needs to take extra care because they are visible. The edges of the Sellier bag are sharper, and its structure has a lot more rigidity than its counterpart, being able to stand upright instead of slouching. A slouching Sellier bag is an immediate give away.

The Birkin and the Kelly have similar structural qualities, but the former has heavier dimensions. Originally made to be a strong, secure carry-on traveling bag (as requested by Jane Birkin), the Birkin is super rigid with a luxurious weight too. The ‘clou’ or metal feet also add to the weight of the Birkin and provide support for sitting, as the bag should able to sit straight always.

The handles of the Birkin should be rigid and be able to stay upright without any support. When examining the handles, ensure that you take measurements of the distance from the top of the bag to the top of the handles: the standard measurement for this is 12.7 cm or 5 inches.

2. Confirm the Size and Measurements.

When verifying the authenticity of high-end handbags from Hermes, it is important to know their measurements and proportions.

  • There are four major Birkin sizes: 40 cm, 35 cm, 30 cm, and 25 cm.
  • There are four sizes of the Kelly: 50 cm, 40 cm, 35 cm, 32 cm, 28 cm, 25 cm, 20 cm, and 15 cm.

The bags are also available in special edition models such as the Birkin HAC which come in different customized proportions and the Kelly travel bags which are available in sizes 50 cm and 40 cm.

The size charts below can help you know if you have a genuine or fake bag. The measurements across the base of a 30 Birkin bag should be 30 centimeters, 40 Birkin should be 40 centimeters, e.t.c. Hermes sizes are always 100% true, so always do your authentication with the correct measurements.

Birkin size chart (cm)

25 25 × 20 × 13 cm
30 30 x 22 x 16 cm
35 35 x 25 x 18 cm
40 40 x 30 x 21 cm

Kelly size chart (cm)

15 15 x 11 x 5 cm
20 20 x 16 x 10 cm
25 25 x 19 x 9 cm
28 28 x 22 x 10 cm
32 32 x 23 x 10.5 cm
35 35 x 24 x 12 cm
40 40 x 28 x 16 cm
50 50 x 34 x 25 cm

3. Examine the Choice and Quality of Materials.

Very crucial! The scent of Real Hermes leather is unique. The bag retains that smell irrespective of how long it has been in use. The proprietary leather treatment of Hermes cannot be replicated by forgers, who usually opt for more a chemical scent in the finishing. This is an immediate red flag that is hardly missed by professional authenticators.

When trying to authenticate a Hermes handbag, it is important to carefully examine the materials used in making the bag. Hermes works with only the best leather you can find in the world and it takes at least two years for its professional leather craftsmen to train with Hermes-specific leatherworks, after which they start making handbags.

If you feel unsure about the quality of a bag, it is most likely a replica. It feels supple and soft to touch real Hermes leather, and the visual characteristics would be determined by the kind of leather used.

4. Check the Stitching Style

Hermes leather products are made with a special kind of stitching known as saddle stitching, which originated from their history of handcrafted equestrian leather gear. Saddle stitching involves using two separate needles to create two lines of stitches in one line of holes, resulting in a clean and firm look.

Since genuine Hermes bags are handcrafted, there should naturally be some imperfections in the stitches. Machines are typically used in stitching replicas, so they all come in perfect lines. This is another red flag that you are dealing with a replica.

Looking at a genuine Hermes bag, the stitches on the other side of the leather would appear in an angle the opposite direction of the stitches on the front side. This is because two needles are used to hand-stitch authentic Hermes bags.

5. Examine the Hardware.

The next important thing to inspect is the hardware. Kelly and Birkin’s bags come with two kinds of hardware: palladium and gold.

The hardware should feature a laser-printed’HERMES PARIS’, in a neat and even font. Another thing to note is that Hermes bags with gold hardware should have a hallmark after ‘PARIS’, while the palladium bags do not come with a hallmark (example in the picture above).

Next, inspect the interior of the bag, particularly the back pocket with a zipper attached. This is one area that counterfeiters commonly make mistakes. It helps to know how genuine Hermes zippers look to confirm whether you have an authentic or not.

On the starting end of the zipper (opposite end of where you find the zipper pull tag), there should be a metal ‘H’ which must align neatly with the metal slider. The ‘H’ feature is not on all Hermes bags, especially the older models, which come with a standard square block as is common with other kinds of zippers.

Opening and closing the zipper should feel like a luxury experience: easy, smooth, and satisfying. These zippers have been tested by a trained artisan and confirmed to be fully satisfactory. Finally, genuine Hermes zippers come with a neat matte finish; they should have no shiny or lustrous qualities. Cheap, shiny metals are mostly used for replicas.

6. Look at the Hermes Date Stamp

Hermes date stamps have two locations – at the back of the front strap on the exterior of the bag or the right-hand side of the interior wall of the bag.

In 2016, Hermes began to stamp the codes on the interior of Birkin bags rather than the behind the front strap. Unlike the number code used by Chanel to indicate the year of production, Hermes indicates the year using an alphabetical code.

The letter will either be stamped on its own, stamped inside a square, or stamped inside a circle. The A to Z range stands for 26 years. For instance, stamping the letter ‘P’ in a square indicates that the bag was produced in 2012.

A table is provided below for reference because the date code is an important step in authenticating a Hermes bag. In the latest Hermes date stamp, the letter ‘Y’ is stamped on its own.

Year Range Stamp Type
1945 (‘A’) to 1970 (‘Z’) Letter Stamped by Itself
1971 (‘A’) to 1996 (‘Z’) Letter Stamped in Circle
1997 (‘A’) to 2013 (‘Q’) Letter Stamped in Square

This method was changed in the most recent Hermes production models (2014 to 2020). These model years have no square stamps.

‘R’ (no square) 2014
‘T’ (no square) 2015
‘X’ (no square) 2016
‘A’ (no square) 2017
‘C’ (no square) 2018
‘D’ (no square) 2019
‘Y’ (no square) 2020

Be more cautious when a bag has the letter ‘L’ stamped in a square. A square with an ‘L’ itself does not indicate that the bag is fake but this stamp is used in many fake bags.

7. Confirm the Hermes Brand Stamp.

To someone with little experience, a fake Hermes brand stamp can easily pass for the real deal. However, when checking the authenticity of a Hermes bag, especially the Kelly or Birkin, it is important to examine the brand stamp.

Authentic bags have the Hermes logo heat-pressed on them. The replica logo is also heat-pressed on many counterfeit bags and the press is often found too deep on these fakes, leaving the leather with a messy indent.

Extremely important! When your finger runs along with the logo, it should feel prominent on the leather and not pressed down into it. The Hermes font must be even, consistently spaced, and perfectly centered – there should be no single visual blunder.

Kelly and Birkin Hermes Bags Authentication Summary for Quick Reference

  • Is there a Hermes authenticity card for the bag? This is a COUNTERFEIT. Hermes never issues authentication paperwork for a bag. The only time there is paperwork for a genuine Hermes bag is the CITES documents that come with exotic skins (such as crocodile and alligator). If you are dealing with a credible reseller, they can issue proprietary authentication documents and they should, but these are never from Hermes.
  • Does the bag slouch? Is there any bulge or unevenness in the leather? It is a COUNTERFEIT. Genuine Birkin and Kelly bags (except the Retourne Kelly bags with softer leather) always stand fully upright.
  • Are the handles off-center or floppy? It is likely a COUNTERFEIT. Hermes bags are famous for their sturdy handles which never slouch even with consistent use.
  • Are there two pieces of leather joined together to make the clochette (leather lanyard for the keys)? If yes, it is definitely a COUNTERFEIT. Only a single piece of leather is used to make authentic Hermes clochettes.
  • Do the dust bag logo and the original Hermes logo not match? COUNTERFEIT.
  • Is there any strangeness, irregularity, or misalignment about the Hermes stamp font? If yes, it is a COUNTERFEIT.
  • Do you find any shabby stitches, glue, or overly perfect machine stitching? This is a sure sign it is a COUNTERFEIT.