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Hermès History and Authentication Techniques

History of Hermés

The Hermès family believes in quality hand craftsmanship and carries on this tradition to this day. Most of their factories are in France and many items are crafted from start to finish by one individual, insuring unwavering quality. In fact the Hermès family still owns the majority shares of the company, they briefly went public and deemed against it.

Hermès was established in 1837 by Thierry Hermès in France. Hermès handcrafted harnesses and bridles for carriages, his clientele consisted of European royalty including Napoleon III as well as the who’s who around Europe. Thierry’s son, Charles-Emile Hermès, expanded the business in 1873 by opening an additional store in France and adding saddles to their line.

Hermès didn’t introduce their first handbag until 1922 and in 1937 the first scarf factory was opened, little did they know that handbags and scarves would later be their most sought after items. Hermès is most known for their Birkin and Kelly handbags. The beginning of the Kelly bag dates back to 1892, its foundation is borrowed from a bag that Hermès created to hold a saddle. The Kelly bag was modified over the years and when it made it's debut to the public it's name was “Sac-à-Depêches” and sadly smaller handbags were en vogue. Decades later in 1954 while Grace Kelly was starring in'To Catch A Thief' a Hitchcock film, the costume designer, Edith Head purchased a few items from Hermes for the movie, including the “Sac-à-Depêches.” Rumor has it that Grace Kelly loved the bag so much she quickly commissioned 6 more. A year later when Princess Grace Kelly of Monacco was seen by the paparazzi concealing her undisclosed baby bump with this handbag, it was then officially named the ‘Kelly’.

In the 1950s Robert Dumas-Hermès became chairman and introduced the Hermès tie, which is always in high demand. In 1961 the Hermès iconic carriage logo, steaming from their beginnings, was born. This was also the start of the classic orange box and brown and white ‘stitched ribbon.
Jean-Louis Dumas replaced his father Robert in 1978 and headed up Hermès until 2006. Jean-Louis grew Hermès into what it is today, he focused on expanding upon leather goods, silks, perfumes and home wear. In fact, in 1984 under Jean-Louis’ direction, the infamous Birkin bag was born. The Birkin is the most collectible handbag in the world, to this day. Jean-Louis Dumas saw Jane Birkin struggling with a straw bag she was carrying on a flight, from there, the Birkin bag was born. It’s no surprise that she was gifted with the first one. When the Birkin debuted in 1984 the starting cost was $2000, they now begin at $12000. These handbags are highly coveted and their prices go up every year, making them the perfect investment.


For many years Hermès was not as well known as it is today, it was gaining more brand awareness over the years, but in 2001 the show ‘Sex and the City’ launched Hermès back into the spotlight. It was then the general public learned of Hermès, Birkin bags and the infamous ‘list’. Birkin and Kelly handbags are almost never available in store, to purchase one, you need to know someone who works at Hermes or reach a certain spending level. There used to be a list, but it no longer exists. Because of this many handbags are purchased second hand as it is typically three month - three years of waiting to get your hands on a Kelly or Birkin bag.

Pierre-Alexis Dumas, the son of Jean-Louis is the current creative director of Hermès and because of him, Hermès has had is largest growth in decades. Hermès has stuck with it’s roots and still handcrafts saddles, but they have included many other product divisions, leather goods, scarves, ties, men's wear, women's wear, scarves, jewelry, perfume, stationery, footwear, gloves, enamel, decorative arts, tableware, and watches.

Knowing how to authenticate is extremely important, Hermès will not authenticate, in fact, Hermès employees will be fired if they do so. There are many things to take in to account when authenticating, overall shape, quality, stitching, hardware, Hermès stamp, date stamp, handles, leather type and even the smell. Below is a chart to decipher the Hermès date code, information regarding their lesser known stamps, as well as more Birkin and Kelly bag details.

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Hermes Date Stamp Cheat Sheet:

  • 1922-1944 No date stamp
  • 1945 - 1970 Letter Stamp (a-z stamped in alphabetical order)
  • 1971 - 1996 Letter Stamp (a-z stamped in alphabetical order), inside a circle.
  • 1997 - 2014 Letter Stamp (a-z stamped in alphabetical order), inside a square.
  • 2015 - Present: Letter Stamp (random), no shape. Letters are no longer alphabetical, rumor has it that it’s because people became familiar with the date code and wanted the newest bags possible, therefor Hermés had trouble selling items from previous seasons. Most likely this is more of a measure taken to curb some counterfeits, you be the judge. Hermés has also moved the blind stamp from the backside of the strap (sangles) on the Birkin and Kelly to inside the bag.
  • It’s said this new code is a secret one and harder to decode. It will always begin with the letter of the year and the letters and numbers following are for Hermés to look up the factory or artisan. The new format looks like this - L LL NNN LL, with the first letter representing the year.

*Here's a tip for remembering dates like a pro - The year 2000 is letter D, from there you can go up or down to date handbags and accessories correctly. See our date list below for specific details by year.

Birkin and Kelly Bag Sizing:

Below are the sizing dimensions of Birkin and Kelly handbags. Keep in mind sizes have been discontinued over the years, brought back into circulation and special size releases not mentioned below.

Birkin Bag Sizes: 

Birkin bags have been crafted in sizes 25cm, 30cm, 35cm, 40cm, 45cm, 50cm and 55cm.

25cm:  10" L x 5" W x 8"H
30cm: 12" L x 6.25" W x 9" H
35cm: 14" L x 7.5" W x 10.75" H
40cm: 16" L x 8" W x 11.25" H
45cm: Travel Brikin 17” L x 7” W x 11” H
50cm: Travel Birkin 19.5”L x 9.5” W x 15” H
55cm: Travel Birkin 21” L x 10” W x 17” H

Kelly Bag Sizes:

Kelly bags have been crafted in sizes 20cm, 25cm, 28cm, 32cm, 35cm, 40cm, and 50cm.

20cm: 8" L x 3.5" W x 6"H
25cm: 10”L x 3.5”W x 7.5” H
28cm: 11" L x 4.5" W x 8" H
32cm: 12.5" L x 5" W x 9.5" H
35cm: 13.75" L x 5" W x 10.25" H
40cm: 14.75” L x 6” W x 10” H
50cm: Travel Kelly 20” L x 8.5” W x 14.5” H

Hermès Authentication Facts:

  • Hermès handbags overall do not come with authenticity cards. Very few of them do and to find an authentic Hermès with authenticity papers is extremely rare.
  • Hermès has had three dust bags in its entirety, the first dust bags were light brown, later dust bags were orange and current dust bags are herringbone.
  • Over the years Hermès has released many different colors and types of leathers, leathers and colors can be specific for certain years.
  • Hermès now has an accent at the end of 'Paris', older handbags and accessories do not have an accent. Even older handbags, made before 1965 are simply stamped Hermès Paris. Handbags made after 1965 have 'Made in France' added. 
  • Hermès handbags have a distinctive smell because of the tanning procedures. In 2018 they changed their tanning process and handbags from that year have a distinct marijuana smell, they have since changed it back.
  • Always stitched, never glued. The stitch used is Hermés saddle stitch and it slants slightly upwards.
  • Zipper pulls will always be horizontal and will not hang down, however a vintage zipper pull will differ from a current one. 
  • Hardware is gold or palladium plated and will always be stamped as such. Testing the alloy content can help identify an authentic from a counterfeit. Most all handbags Hermés has released has had plated hardwear.
  • Not all Hermès handbags come with locks, quite a few do. The bags that do have locks will have a set of corresponding keys (sometimes these become lost over the years), the numbers on the keys will match the number engraved on the lock. Fonts on the locks will always be crisp, common counterfeit lock numbers are 102, 121, 212, although counterfeiters are known to use many different combinations.



Hermès is known for hiring the best of the best artisans, most have graduated from École Grégoire-Ferrandi, a school known for working with luxurious leathers. Once an artisan has handcrafted a bag, it goes to the inspector who goes over every tiny detail. If it passes, it's stamped. The stamp will contain the date code and allow Hermès to identify the artisan and the workshop in which it was made.


If you were to see a stamp that had an hourglass, AR, P inside a square, the hourglass is the mark of a master artisan, AR marks the factory, the square/p is the year it was made. 


*Not all handbags have the additional mark like the hourglass, most have two letters with the date code (square P). For collectors this hourglass stamp is an added additional level of specialness, the hourglass stamp is an internal stamp for Hermes and the mark of a master craftsman. All handbags are stamped so Hermes can trace each bag back to the factory it was made in and artisan who made it, especially if it sent back for a repair.


Font and size on date codes have changed though out the years, but stamping always clear and legible. There are even instances of authentic stamps being a bit crooked (sometimes upside down) and stamps being in different spots.  Contrary to popular belief not all Hermès handbags have blind stamps, but most do. Blind stamps are named blind stamps because they are meant to be just that, hidden. If handbags are sent to the Hermés Spa, most likely they will come back with additional blind stamps, including the mark of the artisan that took care of the repair. 


Look below to date your Hermès handbag or leather accessory. In case you were wondering what happens to bags that don't make the cut by inspectors, sadly they are destroyed.



Special Exterior Stamps - Some Hermès handbags have unique stamps on the exterior of the bag stamped on the left of the Hermès Paris stamp, we’ve decoded them for you:


  • Hose Shoe Stamp: These handbags are special ordered and are only acquired by clients that have bought their way in. Special ordered bags can include a colored interior or even your initials blind-stamped in the bag. You will need to have dropped tens of thousands if not more to meet this criteria.
  • Exotic Skin Stamps: These stamps will be found on the front of the bag to the left of the Hermés made in Paris stamp and be in the same silver or gold as the brand stamp. Alligator, crocodile, lizard, ostrich handbags and look like, •• (Crcocdile Niloticus), ^ (Crocodile Porosus), - (Varanus Niloticus Lizard), = (Varanus Aalvator Lizard) , or a square (Alligator MIssissippiensis).
  • Shooting Star Stamp: These handbags were handcrafted for an employee of Hermès or for the Artisan themself, these handbags can never be sent to the Hermès Spa. Some see the shooting star as being collectible, but the fact it can't go in for repairs does devalue it in most collectors eyes.
  • S Stamp: S stands for sale and at Hermès it happens twice a year since 1938, bags stamped with S have a lower resale value, not much lower though!



Special Interior Stamps -

  • Omega Stamp, Hourglass Stamp, Star Stamp, Numbers, Extra letters, Celtic Cross, Diamond with center diamond shape: These handbags are made by master craftsmen and garner a special stamp, although they are the same quality as other Hermès handbags. These are stamps that collectors love to see.
  • As stated above, if you make it to horseshoe stamp level you can have your own initials stamped next to the date stamp.

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Hermés Stamp and Corresponding Date

No Shape 



1945 A 1971 A 1997 A
1946 B 1972 B 1998 B
1947 C 1973 C 1999 C
1948 D 1974 D 2000 D
1949 E 1975 E 2001 E
1950 F 1976 F 2002 F
1951 G 1977 G 2003 G
1952 H 1978 H 2004 H
1953 I 1979 I 2005 I
1954 J 1980 J 2006 J
1955 K 1981 K 2007 K
1956 L 1982 L 2008 L
1957 M 1983 M 2009 M
1958 N 1984 N 2010 N
1959 O 1985 O 2011 O -  In some instances"JO" was stamped in a square instead of O stamp in square, this happened on some handbags including the Evelyn and Double Sens.
1960 P 1986 P 2012 P
1961 Q 1987 Q 2013 Q
1962 R 1988 R 2014 R - Late production had no square.
1963 S 1989 S 2015 T - Hermes skipped 'S' this year and also went sans square. No Square, L LL NNN LL Format 
1964 T 1990 T 2016 X - Hermes moved the blind stamp on the Birkin and Kelly to the interior, which continues to this day. No Square, L LL NNN LL Format 
1965 U 1991 U 2017 A - No Square, L LL NNN LL Format 
1966 V 1992 V 2018 C  - Hermes passed the 'B' in a square to throw off counterfiters. No Square, L LL NNN LL Format 
1967 W 1993 W 2019 D - No Square, L LL NNN LL Format 
1968 X 1994 X 2020 Y - No Square, L LL NNN LL Format 
1969 Y 1995 Y  2021 - Waiting in anticipation.
1970 Z 1996 Z  


Hermés Color List

Hermés has offered many types of leather and many colors over the years, however there are a limited amout of colors available in store. Many colors are/were seasonal, special ordered, infrequently released and some discontinuned.

Naturals Greys Browns Oranges Reds
Alezan Ardoise Brule Capucine Bordeaux
Argile Etain Cacao Crevette Bougainvillea
Biscuit Fusain Cafe Feu Braise
Cannelle Graphite Caramel Mangue Brique
Craie Gris Agathe Chocolat Orange Geranium
Etoupe Gris Paris Cognac Potiron Rouge Casaque
Fauve Gris Perle Ebene Sanguine Rouge Garance
Gold Gris Souris Ecorce   Rouge H
Kraft Gris Tourterelle Havane   Rouge Imperial
Natural Plomb Marron d'lnde   Rouge Indien
Noisette   Marron Fonce   Rouge Moyen
Parchement    Miel   Rouge Piment
Poussiere    Moka   Rouge Pivoine
Sabel    Ocre   Rouge Venitien
Tabac Camel    Rouille   Rouge Vif
    Sienne   Rubis
    Terre   Vermillon
Pinks Purples Blues Greens Yellows
Bois de Rose Amethyst Bleu Atoll Bamboo Cumin
Cassis Anemone Bleu Abysse Canopee Curry
Flamingo Cassis Bleu Azteque Chartreuse Jaune
Fuchsia Crocus Bleu Brighton Eucalyptus Jaune d'Or
Peche Cyclamen Bleu de Galice Granny Jaune Poussin
Pink Iris Bleu de Malte Kiwi Lime
Rose Confetti Mauve Bleu de Prusse Lichen Mimosa
Rose des Sables Parme Bleu Electrique Malachite Moutarde
Rose Dragee Prune Bleu France Menthe Soleil
Rose Jaipur Raisin Bleu Hydra Pelouse Soufre
Rose Lipstick Ultraviolet Bleu Indigo Pistache  
Rose Sheherazade Violet Bleu Izmir Toundra  
Rose Shocking   Bleu Jean Vert Anglais  
Rose Tea   Bleu Lin Vert Anis  
Rose Tyrien   Bleu Obscur Vert Bengale  
Rosy   Bleu Ocean Vert Bronze  
Rubis   Bleu Orage Vert Caucase  
 Tosca   Bleu Pale Vert de Gris  
    Bleu Paon Vert Emeraude  
    Bleu Paradis Vert Fonce  
    Bleu Saphir Vert Olive  
    Bleu Tempete Vert Veronese  
    Bleu Thalassa