Asprey (Est. 1735 & 1781) The name, “Asprey” is attributed to two separate companies with much in common. The current company’s timely slogan, “Always Asprey” is more than apt for a company that’s been in business for more than two centuries.
Asprey London is one of the oldest English jewelry companies. It was established in London in 1735 by London Jewelers’ Guild member George Wickes who became famous for his rococo style jewelry and whose creations were popular among the English aristocracy. During its long history the company has changed owners multiple times.
The second Asprey jewelry house was founded in Mitcham, South London, England in 1781 by William Asprey (1759-1827), who was a descendant of French Huguenots who fled to England to escape religious persecution. The family traditionally specialized in leatherworking, watchmaking, and metalsmithing.
At first, the second company was a silk printing business. William’s son Charles (1786-1854) and his grandson, Charles Asprey II Junior (1813-1892) expanded the business into metallic arts.
Asprey advertised “articles of exclusive design and high quality, whether for personal adornment or personal accompaniment and to endow with richness and beauty the tables and homes of people of refinement and discernment.”
In 1841 Asprey went into partnership with London stationer, Kennedy’s. By 1847, the relationship had soured and Asprey, then headed by the elder Charles, moved to 167 New Bond Street, where the firm still operates today.
Asprey also purchased the Alfred Club at 22, Albermarle Street (among whose famous members was Lord Byron), so they could enlarge their premises with entrances on two of London’s most fashionable streets.
Always seeking to expand its offerings, in 1859 Asprey bought Edwards, a maker of dressing cases and a holder of a Royal Warrant. The merger produced one of Asprey’s early specialties: dressing cases that were superlative examples of traditional design. The firm went on to essentially re-invent the category by creating new, portable cases, mostly in leather, for the newly popular style of railway travel.
In 1862, Asprey won a medal at the International Exhibition for their dressing cases. The company was subsequently granted a warrant from Queen Victoria that gave it entree to a growing list of Royal and international clients.
Throughout the nineteenth century, Asprey’s business flourished. It received another Royal Warrant from the Prince of Wales who would later become King Edward VII. The King remained an important and enthusiastic Asprey client. His blessing increased the company’s patronage to include the British royal family and foreign royalty and dignitaries who visited the store while in London.
By the end of the 19th century, the company’s fame had spread far beyond England’s borders. During the 1920’s Asprey received commissions from American millionaires including J. Pierpoint Morgan and also from Indian Maharajas and the Sultan of Lahore.
Ernest Betjeman, who was regarded among the best designers of the time and a friend of Philip Asprey, was hired by the company. In 1927, Saks Fifth Avenue in New York became Asprey’s American agent.
The company felt the effects of the Great Depression of the late 1920’s and early 30’s because of reduced demand for luxury goods, Nevertheless, Asprey grew considerably during this era of the 20th Century. The company acquired new manufacturing facilities and hired the finest silversmiths, goldsmiths, jewelers and watchmakers and employed the finest craftsmen.
In 1930, during the London Round Table Conference on India, the Maharajah of Patiala commissioned Asprey to make enormous teak trunks, one for each of his five wives. Each blue velvet-lined trunk was fitted with solid silver washing and bathing utensils and had waterspouts designed as ornate tiger heads.
Asprey cigarette cases became collectible among young sophisticates who desired Asprey’s modern products from art deco accessories to travel clocks, safety razors, and automatic pencil sharpeners.
In the fourth year of his reign, in 1940, King George VI was the first British monarch to give Asprey a royal warrant as Jewelers as well as Silversmiths. During the Second World War, Asprey kept their workshops open at Nettleford House on Euston Road. This allowed them to keep many of their craftsmen who would have otherwise been sent off to war. Silversmiths made parts for the Admiralty and other government departments. Asprey continued to grow after the war and its workshops moved above the New Bond Street store.
Asprey has a tradition of producing jewelry inspired by blooms found in English gardens. Over the decades jeweled interpretations of flowers have evolved to include the Crown Daisy, Rose, Calla Lily and Lily Pad collections.
The master diamond cutter Gabi Tolkowsky created what the company introduced as the “Asprey cut.” This cushion cut gave Tolkowsky options to incorporate the Asprey “A” inscription around the edges of the stone. The result was the 61-facet Asprey cut, maximizing light refraction to brilliant effect.
Carat weights of Asprey-cut diamonds range from 0.50 to 3. Asprey-cut diamonds are inscribed on one side of the cushion with the GIA certificate number and with four distinctive ‘A’s on the other. It is also the only diamond that has the letter “A” on the crown and has a flower in the center to create softness. The shape of the Asprey cut means that the cutting process can be done only by hand, unlike many other stones that, while beautiful, require machine cutting.
Asprey offers classic and fanciful contemporary silver pieces including a saltcellar fashioned to look like a cement mixer or a wheel barrow salt holder with accompanying shovel spoon. Asprey also produces children’s gifts, including tooth boxes, picture frames and rattles.
Asprey has designed and manufactured sporting trophies, including the Race To Dubai trophy and the Dubai World Championship (DWC) trophy. In addition, Asprey is responsible for crafting the Wimbledon championship runner-up and winner’s salvers as well as medals.
When the current monarch, Elizabeth II, celebrated her 1953 coronation, Asprey paid tribute to the event with the Asprey Coronation Year Gold Collection. This featured a dessert, coffee and liqueur service in 18-carat gold that weighed almost 27 pounds. In April 1953, the service went on display in the New Bond Street store and subsequently toured the United States.
Queen Elizabeth and the Queen Mother awarded Asprey a Royal Warrant as Jewellers, Goldsmiths and Silversmiths. Asprey held the warrant until the Queen Mother’s death in 2002.
The Prince of Wales, HRH Prince Charles, gave Asprey a Royal Warrant as Jewellers, Goldsmiths and Silversmiths that Asprey continues to hold today.
In addition to high-class jewelry production, the company also produces wrist watches and table clocks. Asprey styles have an aristocratic spirit and high aesthetic in its models without shouting grandeur.
The economical and light watch shapes combined with the light brightness of the colorings give the models an inimitable and noble image. The company’s model inventory includes quartz and mechanical men’s and women’s watch models. The watch cases are crafted of precious metals or high quality stainless steel. The watches are supplied with sapphire crystals with an anti-reflective coating, and calf skin or crocodile leather straps.
During the last quarter of the 20th Century, Asprey underwent significant corporate changes. In 1973, Eric A. Rolls Asprey became the Asprey Chairman for six years. In 1975, he received the Queen’s Award for Industry.
During these years, Asprey acquired furniture restorers and book binders Sangorski and Sutcliffe. In 1979 John Rolls Asprey, Eric’s son, became chairman. In 1995, Prince Jeffrey Bolkiah of Brunei purchased the firm and in 1998 Asprey merged with Garrard, The Crown Jewellers, to become Asprey and Garrard.
In 2000 Asprey and Garrard was purchased by a private partnership. Then in 2002, the companies separated.
The first years of the 21st Century were also active for the firm. In 2004, Lord Foster of Thames Bank redesigned the flagship New Bond Street store.
The year 2006 marked Asprey’s 225th anniversary and it was granted a coat of arms by the English College of Arms. Also, in 2006 Sciens Capital Management and Plainfield Asset Management purchased the brand.
Among the company’s notable creations is The Asprey Swan part of The Rosalinde and Arthur Gilbert Collection. The sterling silver, life size Swan was made in Asprey’s London workshops in 1985 with partially gilded and patinated silver and platinum. The swan took pride of place at Arthur and Rosalinde’s villa in Los Angeles, either placed on a central side board or dinner table. Today, the magnificent bird has become a mascot of the Gilbert Collection.
To mark Queen Elizabeth II’s recent Diamond Jubilee, Asprey partnered with light artist Chris Levine to create a new work based upon his 2004 portrait “Equanimity”, commissioned by The Jersey Heritage Trust. The new work was called, “The Diamond Queen.” Its execution re-created the Queen’s diamond diadem, worn at her Coronation in 1953. One thousand white diamonds were set in platinum by Asprey craftsmen and overlaid onto the original three-dimensional image of Her Majesty to create the installation.
For film, Asprey designed the Heart of the Ocean necklace featured in the 1997 James Cameron blockbuster, “Titanic.” Other films in which Asprey creations have appeared include the Beatles’ “Help!” (1965), “Match Point” (2005), “Sherlock Holmes” (2006), and “The Tourist” (2010.)
In 2009, Asprey became the official jewelry sponsor of The Orange British Academy Film Awards and continues to this day. Asprey has also collaborated with screen stars including, in 2009, Angelina Jolie and Brad Pitt to create the Asprey’s Protector Collection of fine jewelry for both children and adults.
For 2017, Asprey introduced The Woodland Collection; charms intricately set with gemstones, detailed with bright enamel and realized in 18 carat gold that bring to life whimsical wonders of the British woodland. The collection also has designs that feature the ‘Oak Leaf’ motif on necklaces, bracelets, rings and earrings all in 18ct yellow and white gold speckled with diamond details.
Inspired by the nature of the Kenyan landscape with rich earth tones combined with hues of brightly colored precious stones, the 2017 Autumn Winter Collection introduced a new lattice pattern; a unique and innovative technique where lacquer is expertly applied to soft leather by hand.
Also, in 2017, the Responsible Jewellery Council announced that Asprey achieved certification by meeting the highest ethical, social and environmental standards established by the RJC and will hold the award for the three years following.
Asprey has built its reputation on offering unsurpassed quality, craftsmanship and design across its product lines. These high standards have been consistently upheld throughout the brand’s illustrious history.
Today, Asprey is known for producing timeless treasures and it counts among its vast product selections everything from fine jewelry, watches and clocks to exquisite leather goods, silver, china, crystal and rare books.