Diamond-encrusted crocodile-skin Hermes handbag sold for record $412,000 at auction

A model carries a Hermes signature Birkin with Himalayan crocodile leather during a preview in Hong Kong, on May 30, 2016.
A model carries a Hermes signature Birkin with Himalayan crocodile leather during a preview in Hong Kong, on May 30, 2016.PHOTO: REUTERS

HONG KONG (AFP) - A diamond-encrusted crocodile-skin Hermes handbag with white gold details has broken the record for the world's most expensive ever sold at auction, fetching HK$2.32 million (S$412,000) at a Hong Kong sale.

The rare Himalaya Niloticus Crocodile Diamond Birkin 30 went to an unknown phone bidder late Monday for HK$2.32 million, beating a pre-sale estimate of HK$2 million, the auction house Christie's said.

"It was the world record price for any handbag sold at auction," Bingle Lee, a Hong Kong-based spokesman for Christie's, told AFP.

Designer handbags are increasingly seen as investment opportunities and are the latest craze for collectors, taking global auction houses by storm and scoring record prices.

The new record beat one set last year, also in Hong Kong, when a fuchsia-coloured Hermes bag sold for US$222,912 (S$307,462).

The handmade bag - described by the London-based auctioneers as the "rarest, most sought-after" - is encrusted with diamonds, while the buckle and trademark mini Hermes padlock are made of 18 carat white gold.

"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," Christie's said in a statement issued before the sale.

The bag was made in 2008 and is from Hermes' iconic "Birkin" series named after actress and singer Jane Birkin, who was born in Britain and lives in France.

A smaller Himalaya Niloticus Crocodile Diamond Birkin 25 handbag will go under the hammer on Wednesday with an estimate price of HK$1.3 million to HK$1.5 million.

The auction was part of the firm's 30th anniversary sales to mark its presence in Asia, with a range of luxury goods on offer, including Chinese paintings, watches and wine.