Garrard (Est. 1818 – ) When, in 1990, the Asprey Group acquired Garrard & Co. Limited, Garrard already had a long history and a well-deserved reputation as a great luxury brand designing and manufacturing fine jewelry and silver. Although the arrangement between the two companies would last less than fifteen years, it made headlines in the industry throughout its relatively short history.
In July 2000, BBC News announced that, “Bond Street jewellers Asprey & Garrard have been bought by the co-chairmen of US fashion group Tommy Hilfiger. Private investors Lawrence Stroll and Silas Chou paid an undisclosed sum for the famous firm. The purchase brings to an end five years of ownership by the Brunei royal family.
“Asprey & Garrard, which traces its history back to the 18th century, was bought by Prince Jefri Bolkiah, a younger brother of the Sultan of Brunei in 1995 for £243m. At the time it was a UK listed company, owning the Crown jewellers, Garrard, as well as Mappin & Webb and Watches of Switzerland. It later sold off non-core businesses to become the modern Asprey & Garrard.”
When Brunei’s Prince Jefri purchased the Asprey Group in 1998, he merged Garrard with the famous name of Asprey, forming Asprey & Garrard and located it at Asprey’s premises on New Bond Street, London. After the split, Garrard was sold to a private partnership that split the two names in 2002.
The Garrard name was established in 1735 in London by Georges Wickes (1698-1761). It wasn’t initially known by the name Garrard when its founder began work as a goldsmith and maker of jewelry and other luxury items for aristocratic patrons. After Wickes’ death, the brand changed hands a few times until it finally fell under the ownership of the Garrard family and became registered and known as Garrard & Co. Limited.
George Wickes was born into a craftsman’s family. In 1712, he was apprenticed to Samuel Wastell and in 1722 Wickes registered his maker’s mark at the Goldsmith’s Hall.
By 1735 Wickes was already a talented craftsman who also dabbled in jewelry, buttons, buckles, and seals. He was appointed Goldsmith to Frederick Louis, Prince of Wales during his lifetime.
In 1782, young Robert Garrard (1758-1818) began working at the firm Wickes established and his first assignments were keeping track of the stock and the accounts. Ten years later, Robert went into partnership with John Wakelin after the death of their previous supervisor William Taylor. On Wakelin’s death in 1802, the firm became known as Garrard and Robert registered his maker’s mark.
In 1818 Robert Garrard died and his sons Robert II (1793-1881), James (1795-?), and Sebastian (? -1870) succeeded him in what had now become a family business.
In 1843, Queen Victoria conferred on the firm the title, Crown Jewellers. It was a title the firm held through six successive monarchs.
In 1848, Garrard produced the America’s Cup and, in 1851, was awarded a £200 prize by the Goldsmith’s Company for a candelabrum centerpiece in the Moorish style. It was judged to be the best piece at the Great Exhibition that also showcased some Garrard jewelry including a bracelet adorned with water-nymphs transporting a pearl; brooches in ancient designs, and Gothic bracelets.
In 1870, Garrard produced a crown for Queen Victoria and in 1911 received two important commissions: First was for Queen Mary’s crown for the coronation and second, the Imperial Crown of India worn by King George V later that year.
Before King Edward VII’s coronation, the House of Garrard was commissioned to reset St Edward’s crown made of solid gold and containing 444 precious stones. The crown weighs nearly five pounds and is only used at the moment a prince or princess is crowned; never to be worn again during their reign.
At the outset of World War I, Garrard was asked to produce precision range finders for the British Artillery. As a result of this project, the company created the Garrard Engineering and Manufacturing Company, which continued until 1992.
In 1937, Garrard remounted The Imperial State Crown and mounted the world famous Koh-I-Noor diamond of 105.602 carats in it. In 1953, the crown was altered for the Coronation of Queen Elizabeth II.
Over the years, Garrard created many important pieces. Besides the crown they made for Queen Victoria, Garrard also made a lightweight tiara she frequently wore and which is featured in most paintings of her after 1870.
In 1910, the firm refashioned the royal scepter to fit the Cullinan I diamond (“The Great Star of Africa.”) It remains the largest cut diamond in the world weighing over 530 carats. The royals wanted the House of Garrard to set the Cullinan I in the Sceptre. Ingeniously, the design allowed the gold clasps holding the diamond to be opened so the stone could be removed and worn as a pendant hanging from the Cullinan II diamond (set in the Imperial State Crown) to form a brooch.
In 1981, Garrard supplied the famous sapphire and diamond ring that Prince Charles gave to Princess Diana. In addition to catering to the royal family, Garrard also sold its creations publicly at stores in London, New York, and a handful of other locations across the world.
During the 1920s, Garrard launched new designs of aigrettes (sprays of gems worn on Indian prince’s and maharajah’s turbans) that became a sign of fashionable Anglo-Indian society.
On the day of her wedding in 1947, the then Princess Elizabeth was to wear a silk veil held in place by the Sunray Fringe tiara, lent by her mother as a bride’s ‘something borrowed’ pre-requisite. Two hours before the ceremony, as it was being fitted, the delicate piece snapped and broke. A police escort quickly escorted the tiara to the Garrard workshop where it was promptly repaired and returned to its rightful place in time for the ceremony.
In 1980, as her wedding present, The Queen gave the Cambridge Lovers Knot tiara to Diana, Princess of Wales and it soon became one of Diana’s personal favorites. More recently, Catherine Middleton, The Duchess of Cambridge has been seen wearing this enduring tiara.
After meeting Catherine at St Andrew’s University in Scotland, Prince William proposed to her while on safari in Kenya. For a ring, the prince presented the future Duchess with an impressive cluster engagement ring from the House of Garrard. The ring displays 14 solitaire diamonds surrounding a blue sapphire, set in 18 carat white gold. It was originally Diana’s engagement ring and the design was inspired by a sapphire and diamond brooch, presented to Queen Victoria by Prince Albert in 1840 on the day before their wedding.
Other noteworthy creations by Garrard include The Eternal Cut which has a unique central petal design and is exclusive to The House of Garrard. The cut features 81 facets. All the extra facets are focused around the culet (base of the stone) to intensify light flow and create a magnified brilliance often compared to a flower blooming. These unique diamonds are available from 0.50cts and each Eternal Cut diamond is lasered with the stone’s GIA number.
Garrard has created iconic tiaras still worn at state occasions. Each piece of crafted jewelry from the House of Garrard displays the House’s meticulous attention to detail and iconic British design.
From jewelry sets to tiaras, headdresses and brooches, every Garrard design is handcrafted in the House Studio. Each time the House designs a new collection, the creative process is inspired by history and precedent. Some collections trace their origins back to a signature piece from past. Other collections are bold expressions of British cultural emblems.
The House Studio also approaches each new collection based on the needs of the client – designing interchangeable, transformable pieces that can be worn in different ways to suit the occasion.
In the past 280 years, the House of Garrard has been called upon to create pieces to mark major occasions. Garrard has had important connections with sports, business, and organizations worldwide creating medals and trophies.
From The America’s Cup, to The Cricket World Cup and The Premier League Cup, the House of Garrard has a long tradition of trophies, sterling silver tableware and gifts with iconic designs and impeccable execution. Along with its existing range of silver gifts, the House Studio also creates bespoke awards and mementos to capture the spirit of special events.
The House has designed and issued many medals during its history including the KBE, DSO, CBE, Order of the Bath, and, most recently, the gold, silver and bronze medals and participants’ medallions for the Invictus Games and its patron, HRH Prince Harry.
These medals are based on a concept from Harry Parker, who lost both his legs while serving in Afghanistan. Designed by Garrard, the medals use an embossed pattern, reminiscent of stitching, to represent the journey of recovery and rehabilitation to the wounded and injured participants in the Games.
Jade Jagger became creative director for the company in 2001 and held the position until replaced by Stephen Webster in 2006. In late 2002 Garrard embarked on an advertising campaign featuring pastiche ‘by appointment’ warrants to promote celebrity endorsements, e.g. ‘Garrard- by appointment to Missy Elliott’. This was not well received by the Royal Warrant Holders Association, which grants the warrants, and Garrard was obliged to drop the campaign.
On July 15, 2007, an announcement made in the Court Circular, under Buckingham Palace, stated that Garrard & Co.’s services as crown jeweler were no longer required. The cited reason was that it was simply ‘time for a change’ although there had been widespread reporting of Royal concern about the raunchy brand image cultivated during Jagger’s contract. This ended 166 years of Garrard’s tenure as the inaugural British Royal Jeweler.
Collins and Sons was appointed the new Crown Jewellers by the Queen, although Garrard still holds a royal warrant from her son, the Prince of Wales, as jewelers, goldsmiths, and silversmiths.
Today, Garrard remains a very fashionable brand and continues to create pieces for glamorous women the world over. Every piece in their collections continues to be magnificently designed and handcrafted by master jewelers. Ultimately, each piece is not only a unique work of art, but an heirloom to be passed from generation to generation.
Visitors to the House of Garrard can immerse themselves in this heritage while browsing current collections in the luxurious, modern ground floor boutique.
The Tower of London houses Great Britain’s regalia and a number of Garrard’s creations are on display there in the Crown Jewels collection, including the Sovereign’s Sceptre, which features the Cullinan I diamond, the largest flawless cut diamond in the world.
Today, Garrard continues to blend its unique heritage with contemporary touches to create spectacular pieces.