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Hermès Leathers and Skins: The Definitive Guide

Hermès has long been synonymous with the word luxury, and for many, bags like the Birkin and the Kelly are the ultimate bags to procure for your collection, especially if it’s made from rarer skin. Every Hermès product is individually crafted and hand-stitched, meaning it can take 40 hours to create a single product.

As many luxury handbag collectors will know, leather qualities can vary greatly, even on luxury brands. But when it comes to Hermès, no expense is spared. Each piece is made only from the finest quality materials; they’re even looking into producing vegan-friendly alternatives to their products. Here are some of the best leathers and skins Hermès uses for their bags.


The original leather that Hermès used to create saddles, Barenia, is one of the highest quality leathers in the world, made from a high-grade calfskin. The leather has a smooth exterior and a hint of sheen, which exudes luxury and perfectly catches the light. Because of its original purpose, the leather is also highly hard-wearing, making it a very appealing choice. It’s wholly scratch-resistant and has oil-absorbing properties, making it water-resistant; ideal for UK weather. The leather also requires a particular tanning process that very few people know. Mainly used on small leather goods and even used for an Apple watch strap, a few Birkins spotted have been made from this material, and it’s a solid choice for a first-time Hermès purchase.


Another popular leather used by Hermès is the Epsom. Made using an artificial embossing technique, it’s finished similarly to that on a Chanel caviar flap bag. It’s lightweight, easily wiped clean, and is usually popular amongst travelers as the embossed, laminated effect hides any significant scratches.

Hermès Leathers

Hermès Clemence

Another grain-effect leather, this product is heavier than usual and is typically used on bags with less structure like the Picotin, though it has been used on the Birkin for those who want something a little different. It’s worth noting that despite its weight and grainy texture, it isn’t waterproof and doesn’t fare well in the rain.

Hermès Box Calf Leather

Another famous and more traditional option from Hermès is the Box Calf leather, often used to produce some of the first Kelly bags. It is exceptionally smooth, smoother than the Barenia, and has a soft glossy finish. However, it does tend to scratch a little easier than the Barenia, and it’s not waterproof.

Chamonix Leather

Sourced in, you guessed it, the heart of Chamonix, this leather is very similar to the box calf. It almost feels like plastic without feeling cheap and is a better alternative to the box calf if you want something a little more durable with a similar effect. However, this will give a more matte finish.

Hermès Niloticus Crocodile

The more affordable of the two crocodile options is the Hermès Niloticus, sourced in the Nile River areas; the skin is available in a shinier and matte effect and is sure to dazzle anyone who comes near it. The scales are more significant than those of the other crocodile skin from Hermès, the Porosus, and 0ne exciting thing to note about this highly desirable skin is that it doesn’t react well to water despite its origins. However, it is pretty durable elsewhere and is scratch-resistant.

Hermès Natural Lizard

Though this skin is no longer commonly used by Hermès, it does make any product made from it a good investment when purchased pre-loved; just be sure to be vigilant when authenticating. Most easily identified by its small scales, most goods made from this skin come with a glossy finish and are small in size as they’re sourced from the African Monitor Lizard. As with crocodile and alligator skins, the bag is more sensitive than some of the fine leathers Hermès uses, as it can be prone to drying out and peeling if not looked after correctly. Similar to how the crocodile skin doesn’t fare well when exposed to water, the lizard skin doesn’t fare well in the heat and, as such, must be stored in a cool place between uses.

Molly Aronson

I'm an award-winning blogger who enjoys all things creative but is especially passionate about lifestyle design. I blog over at mehlogy.com I love that I get to share my passion for healthy living, fashion, fitness, and travel with readers from all over the world.

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