Hermès Birkin handbags are hand-built by experienced craftsmen, one of the primary factors contributing to the high price of all Hermès handbags. The production of each bag may take up to 48 work hours, translating into weeks. They are distributed worldwide to Hermès boutiques on intentionally unpredictable schedules and in even fewer reliable quantities, creating a sense of scarcity and exclusivity around the product.
The exterior of the bag can be made of a variety of leathers. One of the most expensive variations of the bag is made of saltwater crocodile skin. The price of these bags depends on the size of the scales. Bags with smaller scales cost much more than those with larger scales.
Typically, a Birkin bag's lining is made of goat skin and its color will match the bag's exterior color. The bags can also be special-ordered with custom leathers and colors, but order privileges are granted only to certain established Hermès clients, and again, on an unpredictable basis.
Orders are reportedly submitted to Paris twice a year, with "special-order" bags coming back anywhere from a year to two years later. Occasionally, special orders may never arrive, as Hermès is notorious for discontinuing certain leathers or colors without notice, frequently making the arrival and "pick-up" of a special order Birkin a cause for some fun fanfare both for the client, and occasionally even for boutique staff.
The metallic hardware on a Birkin bag (the lock, keys, buckle hardware and feet studs) are typically plated with gold or other precious metals, such as palladium, which, unlike silver, will not tarnish. The metal lock may be covered with leather as an option when custom ordering. Certain notable Hermès clients have paved buckle hardware with diamonds, notoriously resulting in one black crocodile skin Birkin which notably sold for close to $65,000 at auction in 2005.
Birkin lock keys are enclosed in a type of leather lanyard known as a "clochette" which is typically, but not necessarily, carried by looping it through one of a Birkin's handles. The Birkin bag may be locked by closing the bag's top flaps over all buckle loops, wrapping the buckle straps, and closing the lock on the front hardware. Locks and keys are number-coded.