Discover how to spot a fake Hermès bag like a pro

37% of consumers have purchased a counterfeit product without knowing it according to EUIPO.  Additionally, 90% of all Hermes Birkin and Kelly bags sold online aren’t genuine articles!

Hermès represents the epitome of craftsmanship and exclusivity in the world of luxury leather bags. Known for its unparalleled quality and attention to detail, the brand and its craftsmanship have become synonymous with the pinnacle of style and sophistication. However, with the high demand for iconic models such as the Birkin, Kelly, and Constance - known as BKC (Birkin, Kelly, Constance) - the market has seen a surge in super well-made, sophisticated counterfeit products. This guide aims to empower you with the knowledge to discern a genuine Hermès bag from a fake one, ensuring you make an informed, secure investment in your luxury collection.

 

 

The Hermès heritage and its iconic bags 

Founded in 1837, Hermès began as a high-grade harness workshop in Paris, catering to European noblemen. Over the decades, it has evolved into one of the world's most prestigious brands in luxury goods, including its legendary handbags which were introduced in the 20th century. Each Hermès bag is a testament to the brand’s commitment to quality, made entirely by hand by skilled artisans - a process that can take up to 48 hours per bag.

 

The Birkin and Kelly bags, both named after celebrities Jane Birkin and Grace Kelly, are among the most sought-after luxury items in the world. Their allure isn't just in their aesthetic appeal but also in their functionality and the status they confer upon their owners. The Constance bag, equally prestigious, offers a more compact alternative with its distinctive H clasp.

 

 

Let’s talk about pricing

 

The cost of a genuine Hermès bag reflects its craftsmanship, materials and brand legacy, usually ranging from 10,000 to over $300,000 for rare or specially crafted models. While a low price might be enticing, it is often a clear indicator of a counterfeit. However, high prices do not guarantee authenticity; some high-priced fakes are sold to mimic legitimacy. However, it's important to note that a high price tag alone does not confirm authenticity. Some counterfeiters may set high prices to create the illusion of legitimacy, hoping to trick buyers into thinking the bag must be real if it is expensive. Therefore, when considering the purchase of a Hermès bag, the price should be evaluated in conjunction with other authenticity checks, such as the quality of materials, craftsmanship details, and the reputation of the seller.

 

Identifying genuine Hermès leather and craftsmanship

 

Leather quality and smell

The quality of leather used is a key indicator of a genuine Hermès Birkin bag. Authentic Hermès uses full-grain leather for its bags, which is the highest quality of leather available. This leather retains the top layer of the hide, ensuring durability and a natural, luxurious appearance. The most common leathers used, including Togo, Clemence, and Epsom, are all noted for their quality and texture, each bringing different attributes to the bags. Overall Hermès bags employ a range of premium leathers including calf, crocodile, and others, usually known for their softness, suppleness, and distinctive natural sheen. For instance, a counterfeit Hermès bag often falls short of replicating the quality of these materials. Fakes typically utilize lower-quality leathers which can appear stiff or overly glossy, mimicking a plastic-like texture. Additionally, these inferior leathers might emit a chemical or acrylic-like odor, distinct from the natural leather smell associated with genuine Hermès products. This discrepancy in material quality is often a clear signpost when verifying the authenticity of a Birkin bag. But don’t fool yourself, there are really great copies that are made with very good quality leather, you need to always go beyond the simple leather material.

 

Craftsmanship and the Hermès stitching

 

The precision in Hermès stitching in every part of the bag is a telltale sign of its authenticity. Currently, a Hermès bag is not 100% handmade, just parts. Nevertheless, the handmade stitches should be tight, uniform, and without any fraying. In contrast, counterfeit bags may show sloppy stitching with uneven spaces or loose threads.

Each stitch is sewn at a specific angle and not straight through, which prevents the stitching from unraveling. Authentic Hermès stitches are slightly angled, even, and clean, which is a detail often missed by counterfeiters.

Understanding the construction of Birkin bags reveals the traditional craftsmanship at the heart of Hermès. Originating as a premier manufacturer of equestrian equipment for the French nobility, Hermès has retained its iconic saddle stitching technique in the creation of its famed handbags. This method, a testament to the brand's heritage, plays a crucial role in the durability and aesthetic of each piece.

Saddle stitching is a manual sewing process that involves a meticulous technique where each stitch is made by hand. This method uses two needles and a single strand of waxed linen thread, ensuring each stitch is perfectly executed. The bags are assembled with the leather held taut in a wooden clamp, allowing the artisan precise control as they sew.

This traditional stitching Hermès technique is not just about aesthetics; it's about ensuring longevity. The saddle stitch is renowned for its strength - should a stitch break, the seam will not unravel, a feature crucial for the durability of premium handbags like the Birkin.

The thread used in the stitching process is a waterproof, waxed linen, chosen for its strength and quality. Hermès's dedication to saddle stitching highlights a technique, derived from equestrian leatherworking, a skill and tradition that defines the brand. Each stitch on a Hermès bag is a small testament to Hermès's legacy of quality and meticulous craftsmanship.

 

Proportions of the bag

 

Genuine Hermès bags maintain strict proportions, despite their size variations from the 25 cm Baby Birkin to the larger 40 Birkin cm models. Each size increase retains the bag's proportional integrity. The difference in size between a 25cm and a 30cm Birkin, for instance, isn’t merely in width but also proportionally in height and depth. The same happens with the 35 cm versus the 30 cm, and so on.  Counterfeits often fail to replicate these exact proportions, particularly at the base of the bag, and can appear awkwardly sized or misshapen.

 

Key features of the authentic Hermès logo

 

The famous Hermès logo design drew inspiration from the work of the French painter Alfred de Dreux  named Le Duc Attele, Groom a L'Attente," depicting a horse-drawn carriage waiting for the groom. But the Hermès logo, stamped on the bags is a simple version, and it reads “Hermès Paris Made in France.”  

 

Hermès logo font and placement

 

The logo on the bags it’s executed in a delicate and precise font, which is tailored to remain unaffected by the leather's texture. This means that despite the natural variations in leather, the logo should appear clean and uniform. It is always neatly centered, maintaining a balanced and symmetrical appearance which aligns perfectly with the bag's overall design.

 

Impact of leather texture

 

True Hermès craftsmanship ensures that the logo's clarity is maintained regardless of the leather's inherent textural qualities. Whether the bag is made of smooth Box calf leather or the grained Togo, the logo should retain its finesse without any distortion or irregularity.

 

Common pitfalls in counterfeit Hermès logo

 

Pay attention to irregular appearance and alignment issues.  One of the telltale signs of a fake is the misalignment of the logo. If the logo is uneven, lopsided, or crooked, it's a significant red flag. Authentic Hermès logos are always perfectly centered and harmoniously integrated into the bag's design. In counterfeit Hermès bags, the logo may suffer from several flaws: it may appear too large, irregular, or blocky. The finesse found in genuine Hermès logos is often lost in these replicas, as the precision of authentic stamping is hard to replicate.

 

Pay attention to the dust bag

Each new Hermès bag comes with a high-quality dust bag in light beige or orange, featuring a neatly stitched dark brown Hermès logo. The drawstring is also made of 100% cotton. Counterfeit dust bags may deviate in color and quality, often appearing in grey with incorrect logo colors.

 

Locks and keys

The number on the lock should match the number engraved on the accompanying key. The locks and keys included with genuine Hermès bags bear numbers that match each other, a detail often overlooked in fakes. For an authentic Hermès bag, the keys are secured with a leather string tied to the handle, and are neatly stored inside a leather clochette. This setup not only enhances the bag's elegance but also ensures that the keys are always available for use with the corresponding lock. In contrast, counterfeit Hermès bags often exhibit discrepancies in the lock and key set. The hardware may not match the quality or color of the bag's other metal components, and the keys and lock typically feel significantly lighter than those found on genuine Hermès bags, which are crafted with considerable attention to detail and use high-quality, heavier materials. This difference in weight and quality is a critical indicator when assessing the authenticity of a Hermès bag.

 

The hardware

The quality of the hardware on a Hermès bag, such as the turnlocks, padlocks, and base studs, should feel solid and heavy. Authentic hardware is typically made from high-quality metals like palladium or gold-plated metal, and each piece is finely engraved with the Hermès logo. Counterfeit bags often use lighter, cheaper metals that can tarnish over time. Plates on Hermès bags come in various finishes, including gold, silver, rose gold, and even embellishments like diamonds.

 

A notable feature in the attachment of these plates to the bag is the use of 'perlage,' a French term referring to a technique involving small nails. This beadwork must be flawlessly executed, as it not only secures the plate to the leather strap but also adds a subtle decorative touch. Although this technique is distinctive to Hermès, many counterfeit manufacturers have begun to replicate it with increasing accuracy.

 

The nails used in the beadwork should be correctly sized and precisely positioned. Historically, the placement of these details has remained consistent across Hermès bags, providing a benchmark for authenticity. Any deviation in nail size or placement can be a red flag.

 

Authentic Hermès plates are perfectly centered on the strap, ensuring that a significant amount of leather is visible around the plate. The plate should be smaller than the width of the strap to allow this visibility. In contrast, counterfeit bags often have plates that are too large for the strap, minimizing the visibility of the leather around them, which can be a clear indicator of inauthenticity.

 

When comparing genuine and counterfeit plates, the differences in bead placement and plate size are often evident. Counterfeit plates may not have the correct alignment and sizing of the beading, further helping in the authentication process.

Hermès packaging box

Hermès uses only the finest materials, not just in their bags but also in their packaging. The cardboard used is sturdy and finely textured, while the print quality is sharp with vibrant colors consistent with the brand’s palette. Counterfeit boxes often have dull finishes or blurred text, which can be a clear indicator of inauthenticity. You need to use UV light to verify the authenticity of a Hermès box, so you can reveal the pattern imprinted. This method can reveal hidden markings not visible under normal light, which are often used by luxury goods manufacturers to mark genuine products. It is advisable to employ this method in conjunction with others, including scrutinizing the box material and evaluating printing quality.

 

Hermès craft codes

Hermès craft codes, commonly referred to as blind stamps, play a pivotal role in the authentication of Hermès bags, including the coveted Birkin. These codes are discreetly embossed into the bag's leather interior, historically positioned on the inside of the left front strap before 2016. After this date, the placement of these codes shifted to various parts of the bag's leather interior.

Each craft code consists of a combination of letters and numbers, typically about eight characters long. The sequence starts with a letter representing the year the bag was made, which is crucial for determining the bag's age. Following this are a series of characters that identify the artisan responsible for creating the bag. This link to the craftsman adds a layer of personalization and traceability to each piece.

Counterfeit Hermès bags often fall short of accurately replicating these craft codes. They might omit them entirely or use a nonsensical series of letters and numbers that don't align with Hermès's established dating system. Being able to decipher these codes not only helps in verifying the bag’s production details but also confirms its authenticity and lineage.

If the bag lacks a serial number, it is advisable to be cautious, particularly if the bag was manufactured after 1945, as all genuine Hermès bags post this date should have one.

The serial number, also known as a blind stamp, serves as a key identifier and includes:

Craftsman’s Mark: This can be a single letter or a combination of letters and numbers, identifying the craftsman or group of craftsmen who made the bag.


Date Code: The year of manufacture is represented by a letter. The format of the letter has changed over the years:

From 1945 to 1970, the letter stands alone (e.g., "A").

From 1971 to 1996, the letter is encircled.

From 1997 to 2014, the letter is enclosed within a square.

From 2014 to the present, the letter appears alone again, similar to the pre-1971 system.

It's important to note that the letter "S" is never used in these date codes as it is reserved for items sold in Hermès sales, which do not include leather goods.

When evaluating the authenticity of a Hermès bag based on its serial number, also consider the placement:

Pre-2016 Bags: The serial number is typically found on the reverse side of one of the straps, behind the plate.

Post-2016 Bags: The serial number is located inside the bag.

 

Additionally, ensure that the date letter on the serial number matches the bag's style and era. For instance, a bag that looks very recent should not have a serial number positioned on the back of the strap, as this placement method was changed in 2016. This attention to detail can help confirm the authenticity of the bag and prevent costly mistakes in the purchasing of counterfeit luxury items.

 

Authentication process

Authenticating a Hermès bag involves a detailed examination of the bag’s materials, craftsmanship, logo, hardware, and much more. This process requires an understanding of Hermès’s meticulous standards. Even seasoned collectors can be deceived by high-quality fakes, making it crucial to rely on reputable sellers or authentication services.

 

Remember owning a Hermès bag is more than a fashion statement - it's an investment in a piece of art. The brand's dedication to quality ensures that each bag not only enhances a wardrobe but also holds its value over time, making it a worthy addition to any luxury collection. In cases of doubt, investing in a professional authentication service is advisable to guarantee the authenticity of the bag and safeguard your investment.

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