Hermès Hardware Guide: Everything You Need To Know
When you dream about your next gorgeous Hermès bag purchase, it’s easy to lose yourself fantasizing about the colors and luxurious leathers on offer. (Bleu Zanzibar Togo? Rose Pourpre and Gris Agate Ostrich? Yes, please!) And then, there’s the whole question about choosing between a Birkin or a Kelly bag. You might completely overlook the stunning Hermès hardware. But this is the jewelry for your beloved bag.
The metal hardware is chosen to enhance each specific bag and is deserving of its own consideration and care. Further, examining the features of authentic Hermès hardware is a key to authenticating the bag as a genuine Hermès.
About Hermès Hardware
Hermès hardware includes everything made of metal on or inside your bag. For the Birkin bag and the Kelly bag, this consists of the touret, the plaque, the lock, the key, the Birkin’s pontets, the D-rings, and the clous or feet in addition to zippers and clasps. Each adds sparkle and depth to the handmade bag it adorns. But don’t forget the prominent H clasp that gives the Hermès Constance its singular appeal. And the intriguing designs of the Hermès Picotin and the fanciful Lindy bag showcase the hardware clasp at their hearts.
All Hermès hardware is made of solid brass, imparting weight and durability. Then, each piece is plated in the precious metal determined to best enhance the bag. All Hermès hardware within a given bag will be plated in the same metal and match with very few exceptions (bags with rose gold or permabrass hardware typically have gold zippers).
Kelly and Birkin bag hardware includes the front plate stamped with ‘Hermès-Paris’, and “Hermès” engraved on the lock, key, and even the zipper pull.
Hermès Hardware Authenticity Check
When authenticating an Hermès bag, special attention is paid to the hardware. In addition to the words stamped and engraved, authentic Hermès hardware renders these words in a clear, crisp font, elegantly spaced. While the specific font changes over the years, the results remain consistent. Experts consider the way these words appear blurred or cramped on counterfeits to be a “dead giveaway”. Likewise, the location of the top rivets and the sangle rivets are often incorrect on counterfeit bags.
Hermès hardware has been modified several times throughout the design house’s history. In the early 2000s, a distinctive metal ‘H’ was added to each zipper, at the end opposite the zipper pull. Birkin and Kelly bags with palladium hardware are marked with a hyphen following the word Paris stamped on the front plate. Gold hardware has a small box next to the word “Paris” with tiny writing inside that can only be read with a jeweler’s loupe. Fake bags cannot match this fine detailing.
Beyond specific tells like these, authentic Hermès hardware simply looks and feels rich, luxurious. Genuine Hermès zippers glide open and closed smoothly. The lock and other hardware have a pleasing weight to them that cheap hardware lacks. Although Hermès hardware can scratch or tarnish with wear, the precious metal plating does not peel or flake off as cheaper plating does.
Hermès Hardware Care
Hermès hardware is simple. Wearing your beloved Hermès bag eventually leads to minor scratches or a patina on the hardware. Polish it well with a dry jewelry polishing cloth. A metal cleaner is not recommended. Protect the hardware from moisture and temperature extremes. Take care that cosmetics, lotions, perfume, and more toxic chemical products, do not come in contact with the hardware.
New bags are delivered with a transparent plastic film covering the Hermès hardware to protect it from scratches. While some keep this film in place for further protection, it can cause significant tarnishing and pitting, especially in humid environments. Hermès recommends removing these stickers to better enjoy the full beauty of the bag. We concur.
Hermès Hardware Replacement or Repair
If your Hermès hardware gets scratched, buff it with a jewelry polishing cloth to bring back its shine. In the case of severe scratches or significant pitting, you can send your bag to the “Hermès spa”, where deep cleaning, repair, and replacement of every part of the bag is possible. Just remember that Hermès hardware replacement may take up to a year before your bag is returned, though it will look like new.
Repairs and refurbishment of your Hermès bag are possible only at certain Hermès boutiques as well as the corporate headquarters in Paris. Not every boutique has an artisan capable of the crafts work necessary to repair the hardware. And not every scratch or ding is deemed worthy of Hermès hardware replacement. In recent years, more requests for hardware replacement are being denied. If the boutique you take your bag to cannot do the approved repairs, your bag will be sent to Paris.
Hermès stands behind its product, so no receipts or proof of purchase is necessary to send your bag to the “Hermès spa” for refurbishment or Hermès hardware replacement. However, the bag will be examined to verify its authenticity and, under French law, will be destroyed if it is found to be counterfeit!
Know Your Hermès Hardware
Several precious metals have been used over the years to form the exquisite hardware for Hermès bags. Several have an abbreviation used within the company. The classic hardware choices are gold or palladium, with several others selected for specific seasons or special orders. Explore tone and character of each type of Hermès hardware:
Classic Hermès Hardware
Referred to as GHW by Hermès insiders, gold is a classic Hermès hardware choice used widely throughout the line. Generally, 18-karat gold plating is used, though some rare styles and Hermès special order bags feature 24-karat gold. Gold hardware has the warm, lustrous shine of genuine glamor.
Palladium (PHW) is a lustrous metal of the platinum group of metals. It is whiter and brighter than silver with a luxurious appeal. More precious than gold, palladium Hermès hardware imparts a cool contrast with brilliant pinks or vivid blues. Most limited edition Birkins and Kellys are produced only with palladium hardware.
Brushed Gold (BGHW) is 18-karat gold plating that is given a contemporary, satin finish by “brushing” micro-fine scratches into the finish in a single direction. The matte appearance is more modern than shiny gold and is less prone to scratches.
Brushed Palladium (BPHW) is palladium treated to the same surface brushing described above. The brushed effect tones down the shine of the hardware.
Rose gold (RGHW) is genuine gold mixed with a bit of copper and sometimes silver to achieve a distinctly pink-toned gold. The copper makes pink gold more durable and more resistant to scratches than the classic yellow gold. Pink gold Hermès hardware is particularly striking neutral shade leathers. Introduced relatively recently, RGHW is increasing in popularity.
Permabrass (PBHW) is the shade that would result from mixing gold and palladium. The champagne-toned metal gleams bright and is especially lovely with dark blues and greens.
Ruthenium (RHW) is one of the rarest metals on our planet. Ruthenium Hermès hardware has a dark, gunmetal gray tone that imparts an edgier, more masculine feel than palladium. It was offered primarily on lizard Hermès bags.
PVD is a coating put on Hermès hardware that darkens the metal to nearly black. PVD has been used exclusively on Hermès avant-garde So Black collection.
An enamel lacquer is used primarily with Constance bags to protect the signature “H” clasp, adding color, durability and shine.
Surely the most extraordinary of all Hermès hardware, 18-karat white gold-plated hardware is encrusted with diamonds to produce the diamond hardware. Diamond Birkin bag hardware is primarily seen with the very finest exotic skin bags like the Hermès Himalaya. “Diamond Birkins” are extremely rare and highly prized.
Hermès hardware is the jewelry for your bag, enhancing its beauty and presence. Choose the hardware that best reflects your style and taste. Better yet, create a handbag collection that includes a variety of hardware.