In 1735 London jewellers House of Garrard opened the doors to the hustle and bustle of the city’s fashionable theatre district on Haymarket. A stone’s throw from the King’s Theatre and its aristocratic audience, Garrard was perfectly placed to supply silver and gold plate to lavish banquets that followed performances.
It soon attracted the attention of Frederick, Prince of Wales whose first commission is recorded in one of the historic ledgers still on view at Garrard’s flagship boutique in Albemarle Street. This year is now celebrated in the 1735 collection, one of the House’s best-loved designs which uses a cluster of diamonds to enhance a beautiful central sapphire, ruby, diamond or emerald.
As the decades passed the relationship with the royal family grew, and so too did the skills demanded from its commissions. Quantities of exquisitely crafted sculptural groups, wine coolers, presentation trophies, tureens and covers left Garrard’s workshop for Britain’s royal palaces, as well as the London mansions and country estates of the nobility.
Alongside such large-scale works came smaller but no less magnificent creations: the royal jewels. Many were personal gifts and keepsakes, like the sapphire and diamond brooch given by Prince Albert to Queen Victoria to wear as ‘something blue’ on their wedding day in 1840.
Rich in romantic appeal and family history, this royal jewel remains a favourite with Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II. It also established a connection between sapphires and the House of Garrard. Today, every Garrard engagement ring carries a small sapphire within its band, continuing the tradition begun by Queen Victoria and her beloved husband and consort.
In 1843 the upkeep and design of the world’s most powerfully symbolic jewels fell to the London jewellers when it was made the first official Crown Jeweller by Queen Victoria. And so began a series of extraordinary commissions. Among the most thrilling was the cutting of the Koh-i-noor diamond – a demanding process which drew the attention of the world’s press and many dignitaries. These included the Duke of Wellington, who visited Garrard’s workshop to witness the stone taking shape. Today these jewels are viewable by all who visit the Tower of London.
At Garrard, visitors to the London jewellery showroom can still be invited upstairs to the workshop, where they too can see techniques in use that are centuries old. One-off stones of great rarity and beauty continue to pass through the craftsmen’s hands. Most recently, the 118.88 carat Garrard Jubilee sapphire was fashioned into a brooch, with every detail crafted by hand.
A visit also brings the opportunity to discover the secrets of the Queen Mary Room – named with the monarch’s permission. Garrard moved into 24 Albemarle Street in 1911, the year it was asked to create a suite of jewels for the Queen to wear at the Delhi Durbar. This lavish event would see George V and his Queen crowned Emperor and Empress of India before hundreds of thousands of people, and the royal jewels had to be equally magnificent. They included a dazzling necklace set with one of the world-famous Cullinan diamonds, as well as a delicate tiara festooned with smaller diamonds that is still worn by members of the royal family today.
With each new generation came the need to master the art of jewellery that could be worn for many hours at a time. In creations like Queen Alexandra’s wedding parure of diamonds and pearls, or the Girls of Great Britain and Ireland Tiara made for Queen Mary, and now often worn by the Duchess of Cambridge, beauty and comfort are combined.
These qualities continue to inform the design of jewels made by the House today, and so too do motifs that have become Garrard signatures. The diamond and dot of Queen Mary’s tiara can be seen in TwentyFour and Albemarle collections, the cluster setting from Queen Victoria’s brooch is used to great effect in 1735, and Regal Cascade is inspired by the motif from the Sovereign’s Sceptre with Cross. In its detail, craft and design, Garrard is keeping its traditions alive.
These regal qualities continue to inform the design of jewels made by the House today, and so too do motifs that have become Garrard signatures.